“The Artist” is a masterpiece.
One of the best movies of the year — or any year, for that matter — this show is so much more than a tribute to silent movies. “The Artist” has it all: a brilliant script (I know, I know, but outstanding writing doesn’t need spoken dialogue), character development, romance, drama and humor.
It is black-and-white. Nothing blows up. CGI monsters are nowhere to be seen. It has subtitles. And it is jaw-droppingly brilliant.
The story begins in 1927 when silent movie actor George Valentin ( Jean Dujardin) is at the top of his game. He also has it all: wealth, a fabulous career in the movies and adoring fans lining up to see his films. When he has his photo taken with a fan named Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), it proves to be the beginning of a career for her, too, after she is cast as an extra in George’s latest movie. George gives her a helping hand and a tip that helps catapult her to fame.
Meanwhile, George’s career begins to fail as talkies arrive in theaters. At last, the studio boss (John Goodman) tells George they will no longer be making silent movies. George thinks he can produce his own films and proceeds to do just that while talkies begin taking over.
George’s career spirals downward as quickly as his personal life. He and his chauffeur (James Cromwell), along with George’s faithful dog (the adorable Uggie, who was also among the animal stars in “Water for Elephants“) end up being the only friends George has left.
Peppy’s star continues to rise just as George faces the prospect of selling all his memorabilia simply to survive. Director Michel Hazanavicius truly is the artist who deserves an Academy Award for his superb work. Every shot is framed beautifully. Watch the bustling activity in a scene involving a staircase and you’ll realize how much time and effort went into every move.
The casting is simply perfect. George and Peppy have the look and style of real celebrities from the era, and a fetching score helps create the feel of that bygone time. Dujardin starred in a couple of spy parodies directed by Hazanavicius, whose significant other is Bejo. (They have two children together.)
Sometimes a movie comes along that is so dazzling, so unique, that it’s impossible to stay quiet about it. “The Artist” is a silent film that deserves to make a big noise.