The comedy-drama “The Artist” is an incredibly delightful film experience that bubbles with nostalgia, saluting the silent film era. Director Michael Hazanavicius had the daunting task of delivering a silent film (there is music, however) that pulsates with life for a loud, impatient world that frequently enjoys movies that arrive in theatres dead on arrival. He succeeded completely. Even sans dialog, the storyline is extremely accessible, almost as if the plot is being whispered within the film’s moody shadows and shouted in the exaggerated movements of its actors.
The film’s story focuses on George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), a silent film star whose career is stunted by the advent of the dreaded “talkie.” Peppy Miller’s (Berenice Bejo) fame rises with the popularity of the talkie. Miller is discovered by a chance encounter with Valentin. Romantic entanglements, arson, a small dog, and dance numbers all ensue.
Did I mention a dog? Add a small dog to an already sympathetic man, and he becomes doubly sympathetic to the point of tragic. George and his canine counterpart are rarely seen apart during the film. They are quite an on-screen duo.
Both Dujardin and Bejo were nominated for Oscars, as was Hazanavicius, along with numerous other nominations.
Hazanavicius’s directing, which provides little nuances like using the 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio to imitate the 1920s style of film, gives a glistening polish to a beaming final product. This film is a cinema buff’s delight.
I couldn’t help but notice some parallels between “The Artist” and our current economic state: Times change; jobs are eliminated; savings are lost. Everything else goes, but the dog stays by the side of the disenfranchised. Then things get better, little by little. Hopefully the same is true for us.
“The Artist” stabilizes between the tragedy of seeing a man broken by the changing times and the comedy of a highly animated John Goodman (He’s in the film too). “The Artist” is just a beautiful film from top to bottom.