Before it was hyped out of proportion and won the Oscar for best picture, The Artist was a terrific film, fun and satisfying.
A love letter to Hollywood, director Michel Hazanavicius' silent film reminds us of the power of moving pictures while reveling in the antics of 1920s cinema, when clowns like Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, and leading men like Douglas Fairbanks ruled the box office.
The Artist's George Valentin (Oscar winner Jean Dujardin, star of the popular OSS 117 series of French spy spoofs) is one of the latter (almost Rudolph Valentino), and everything about him glistens as much as his smile. He has adoring fans, a devoted dog and a beautiful but less-enchanted wife (Penelope Ann Miller).
But talkies are coming, and George is balking at them.
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He then meets an aspiring young actress whose energy matches her name, Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo). Later he runs into her on a staircase. She is walking up, he down.
The Artist then winds its way on a path that revisits film classics Singin' in the Rain, A Star Is Born, Citizen Kane and Vertigo, with even a bit of Bernard Herrmann's score from that film inserted during a key scene.
Even if you're not a complete film geek, The Artist oozes charm and wit. Dujardin and Bejo have the style and grace to have succeeded on the big screen in any era, and there are nice turns from John Goodman and James Cromwell.
Sometimes the film is almost too clever, but it's impossible not to admire it and to give in to its movie magic.
The Artist retails for $30.99 or $35.99 Blu-ray.