The Artist is a charming, even buoyant movie, a silent film shot in black and white, carried by the orchestra soundtrack and the remarkable charisma of the two leads, Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo, and a sidekick scene-stealing dog named Uggie.
This movie is a throwback in every way, with editing, lighting, shot composition, titling, and perfect production design carrying us back to a different time.
Jean Dujardin plays George Valentin, a silent screen star who refuses to do “talkies”, believing, stubbornly, that real actors don’t need a crutch like sound.
Of course, the beauty of this film is that it shows that George was absolutely right, because not only are facial expressions and body language sufficient to convey meaning and emotion, they demonstrate the opposite to be false: this would be a lesser movie if we could hear the dialogue.
George’s love interest is a young starlet, the appropriately named Peppy Miller (played adorably by Ms. Bejo, director Michel Hazanavicius’s wife), whose star is rising as fast as George’s is fading, leading her to support her mentor through his darkness, sometimes openly, sometimes anonymously, and at great insult to his great pride.
But this is true to form, and instead of Film Noir, we are reminded that this is a happy movie from a happy time, and it’s hard not to smile at the remarkable grace and talent demonstrated in the closing scene.
Overall, this is a film of no great depth – a popcorn film, but an irresistible, positively delightful popcorn film – that, unlike another best picture nominee that teaches about film history, instead simply recreates how films used to be made.
Worth 6 of my 7 run-on sentences.