Michel Hazanavicius and actor Jean Dujardin are well known in France for their James Bond spoofs, the OSS 117 films. Now they hop across the pond to ’20s California for a loving – and silent – recreation of Hollywood on the verge of sound. The Artist is shot in exactly the same speechless, monochrome style as the movies in which our tragic hero, actor George Valentin (Dujardin), employs a canny arched eyebrow or breaks out into a rip-roaring tap-dancing routine.

It’s 1927, Valentin is a star, but, oh no, is that the sound of… sound, on the horizon? Valentin is an insufferable ham. He laps up the adoration at a premiere, ignoring his co-stars and hogging the stage. His domestic life is shaky, and his wife isn’t impressed when he’s snapped outside with an unknown woman and they both appear on the cover of Variety. The woman is young, beautiful Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), who turns up as an extra on George’s next picture.

As they fall for each other, the sound age begins and Kinograph Studios sacks Valentin and contracts Miller as its star. Will Valentin pick himself up, or is he destined to become a relic of the silent era?

The real pleasure of The Artist is that Hazanavicius employs the tricks of silent cinema with wisdom, care and all the emotional and musical rhythm of the best of the films he emulates. It’s a movie about cinema that has a heart: it moves between funny and sad and turns the dawn of the sound age into a personal tragedy. Its nostalgia is instructive: a scene of Miller and Valentin tap-dancing either side of a screen reminds us how visually inventive early sound films could be, and a scene of Valentin talking to a policeman that doesn’t have title cards reminds us that good silent films also demanded imagination from the viewer. It’s a gentle call to arms aimed at modern cinema.

The Artist

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Duration: 100 mintues
Released: Feb 2nd
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Stars: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller, Missi Pyle, Beth Grant
Language: English
Classification: PG13
The Artist https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Artist_(film)
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