The Artist (2011)

Starring: George Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman, Penelope Anne Miller, Missy Pyle, James Cromwell

Directed by: Michael Haznavicius

Rating: 1 2 3 4 and a half

Jean Dujardin as George Valentin in The Artist

When I was about seven, one of my favourite films was The Phantom of the Opera, the 1925 silent classic starring Lon Chaney as the lonely, vengeful opera ghost. Back then, I didn't much care whether a film was black and white, technicolor, dubbed, musical or full of screaming kids: I just loved watching movies. These days I've become more picky, for which, I fear, read closed-minded. So when I heard that a 21st century silent movie was storming the awards circuit, I was sceptical, but intrigued.

Well, here's another glowing review to add to the pile. The Artist is a glorious, monochrome silent celebration of everything that's magical about movies, a a melodious, moving love letter to the golden dawn of Hollywoodland.

George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a titan of the silent silver screen. A chance encounter with a bubbly young ingenue, Peppy Miller (the name says it all) launches her on the road to success until, like A Star is Born crossed with Singin' in the Rain, the rise of talkies casts George's career into the doldrums, while Peppy's star soars stratospherically.

Bérénice Bejo as Peppy Miller in The Artist

A simple, familiar tale, but oh so beautifully and ingeniously told. Like Tim Burton's Ed Wood, the film itself embodies its story, a living, breathing (but not, of course, speaking) homage to its subject matter. From the wavering, retro titles to 'The End', the attention to detail is delightful, the theme of lips, mouths and voices a constant visual leit-motif, from Peppy's slick lipstick and air kisses to George's clock, carved in the form of the three wise monkeys, as blind, unheedful and silent as their owner. The gorgeous score sweeps you away to another age and the performances are practically perfect, leads Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo deftly dancing along the line between appropriately larger-than-life silent style and heart-warming, natural charm – although Uggie the dog does rather steal the scene...

Warm and witty, elegant and evocative, at times close to tragic, at others joyously feelgood, I defy anyone not to fall a little bit in love with The Artist. They don't make 'em like they used to? They do now.

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