My favorite movie of the year is not a blockbuster or a superhero movie or even Harry Potter. It’s a movie called “The Artist”, a black and white silent film with subtitles and all. In many ways-hell in all ways-“The Artist” is a stunningly beautiful film. There were times when I forgot I was watching a brand new picture. That’s no easy accomplishment, but the film is so masterfully crafted, it could easily be mistaken for a classic. I’d be an asshole if I say that “The Artist” is a flawed film. Because truth be told (and I’m a very picky person), there is literally nothing wrong with it. I don’t have a single complaint. From the first frame to the last, the movie is pure magic. It is living proof that movies have no need for sex, violence, colors, or even a dialogue to be moving, funny, engaging and most of all, entertaining. The story is relatively simple and takes plot elements from so many classics such as “Sunset Blvd.”, “A Star Is Born” and even “Singing In The Rain”. French actor Jean Dujardin is simply terrific as George Valentin, the charming star of countless silent-movie epics. His character is a cross between Rudolph Valentino and Douglas Fairbanks, and his smile is, in a way, evocative of those men. When we first meet him, it’s 1927, and he is on top of the world; a famous screen lover and an action-adventure hero. After the premiere of one of his movies, he meets an aspiring actress, Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), and gives her a break. But then talkies arrive, and his star status starts declining just as hers begins to rise. Only his driver and his dog stick around through his fall. Why doesn’t George give talkies a try? This question is eventually answered at some point, but honestly and touchingly, in the way a great silent movie would. To quote Sunset Blvd.’s Norma Desmond: “I am big. It’s the pictures that got small”.
I shouldn’t reveal more. But I will say that in director Michel Hazanavicius’s hands, “The Artist” becomes art. Best of all, he recreates an era everyone thought was dead and buried. He builds it in the Chaplin manner. In the Buster Keaton manner. And in the Harold Lloyd manner, creating a complete, ravishing Hollywood world and reveling in the sheer transporting joy of it. Now we can really say that in Dujardin’s performance, we discover something extraordinary and magical: the first great silent movie performance in over 80 years. It truly is the stuff that dreams are made of.