**** The Artist (2011)
Writer-director Michel Hazanavicius’s Best Picture winner The Artist tells the story of George Valentin, a silent film superstar relegated to the trash heap as talkies arrive in Hollywood. As his marquee value plummets, the star of a newcomer (Bérénice Bejo, delightful) rises. Their shifting professional and personal relationship is the central plot device the rest of the picture is built around.
The Artist is a slight, but marvelous movie, a heartfelt and enchanting ode to the silver screen. It would be hard to imagine it working without the extraordinary performance of Jean Dujardin, who also won Best Actor at the Academy Awards this year. He might just have the best smile ever and he’s flawless here. The rest of the the cast is nicely matched to the subject matter and the cinematography and art direction is pure pleasure.
The Artist has its detractors, but your probably best to avoid dwelling on the few things they might have got wrong. So much of the film works that it hardly matters. It’s probably the first silent film most of its audience has ever seen and it plays as a disarming valentine to a Tinseltown that probably never existed, but should have.
A gentle, completely unique film like this one doesn’t come around very often and it’s even got a great performance by Uggie the dog, who retired from show business yesterday.
I mean really, what’s not to like?
ps… I’ve been pushing this forever, but OSS117: Cairo Nest of Spies from a few years ago, also directed by Hazanavicius and starring Dujardin and Bejo is a blast. It’s a hilarious send up of the spy genre and you can see the seeds of The Artist in its conception, execution and style. It’s definitely worth a look.