Written by / 12/28/2011 / No comments / , ,

THE ARTIST

title: THE ARTIST
year: 2011
cast: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo
rating: ****

Silent films, as we all know, are a thing of the past… Yet with all the noisy, cliché ridden big budget flicks lately, something like THE ARTIST is long overdue. Story centers on a silent film era swashbuckler George Valentin, who mugs his way through his signature movies like a true… artist. He’s a bit carried away with himself but isn’t smug about it: He’s proudly on top of his game and that’s that. Enter the gorgeous Peppy Miller, who, as a climbing bit player/extra, lives up to her first name with classic beauty to match. She winds up the dance partner in one of Valentin’s movies, and thus begins a subliminal love story that words needn’t explain in this unique film by writer/director Michel Hazanavicius that uses title cards, melodramatic music, and facial expressions to replace dialog. A few offbeat scenes that involve Valentin – after Talking Pictures i.e. Talkies make his career defunct – hallucinating fictional characters and hearing actual noises seem too much a TWILIGHT ZONE episode. But the movie never strays too far from the simple story of a man past his prime and a woman who’s not only beginning to shine, but with a “secret” that might give our hero a second chance… if he can get past his own navel. Familiar faces include John Goodman as a Hal Roach type director, James Cromwell as a faithful butler, and Penelope Anne Miller as Valentin’s bitter wife. But the show truly belongs to imports Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo, whose energetic turns are splendid gifts for classic film buffs: they not only convey every emotion possible but dance like the actors and actresses from the golden age of cinema: without seeming like an imitation and/or a homage to the real thing. But the best performer might just be Uggo as Valentin’s trick-laden terrier, embodying his on-screen co-star, off-screen best friend, and much more. If there were only an Oscar for animals, he’d beat that War Horse by a long shot.
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