23 December 2011

The Artist

Jean Dujardin, left, and Berenice Bejo are shown in a scene from "The Artist."

"Retro" does not even begin to describe "The Artist."

From French writer-director Michel Hazanavicius, "The Artist" not only takes back to Hollywood in the late 1920s, when sound revolutionized the art of movie-making and the entire film industry, it takes us back to the filmmaking of the time, too. It is a black-and-white, silent film presented in the square-like 4:3 aspect ratio.

It celebrates the movies by focusing on a time when the term "movie magic" actually had meaning. The purely visual filmmaking, accompanied by Ludovic Bource's musical score, is an absolute delight.

The year is 1927. George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a beloved movie star. He loves the spotlight, and the spotlight adores him, sometimes to the consternation of his wife and co-star (Penelope Ann Miller). But the advent of sound ("talkies") is about to change everything. He gives the young dancer Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) her big break, then her star quickly shoots past his as she adapts to sound and he does not.

That essentially is the plot, though that does little to describe what this movie truly offers.

Dujardin, well known in his native France, is a wonderful physical comedian. He and Bejo adopt just enough of the overly expressive silent movie acting style to get that vintage feel without outright mugging for the camera.

Bejo's shining moment comes early, when Peppy sneaks into George's dressing room, slides her arm into his suit jacket and fantasizes about being in his arms—a scene more romantic than anything Hollywood has done in years.

I'm just excited that a movie like this can get made in this age of 3D and endless franchises. It will be a new experience to many movie-goers. Do yourself a favor and give it a chance.

Greg’s Grade: A

(Rated PG-13 for a disturbing image and a crude gesture. 100 minutes.)

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