“The Artist” sparkles with talent and nostalgic charm without uttering a word

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The Weinstein Company

If the plush velvet seats of a movie theatre don’t transport you back to the magical era of early Hollywood, then the ‘The Artist” definitely will. This film hits the concept of silent films on the nose, narrating beautifully the victories and short-comings of one particular silent movie actor, George Valentin (played by Oscar’s Best Actor winner, Jean Dujardin), as he navigates a transitional era for Hollywood and all of America.

It begins with a typical cinema experience for movie-goers in the late 1920s. It’s a silent film complete with action, guns and a smouldering main character mugging confidently at the screen as he dashes through a typical James Bond-like plotline. Credits roll, arrogant actor comes onstage to greet his adoring fans (much to the chagrin of his female costar) and his luxurious, fairy-tale life continues. “The Artist” then goes on to tell Valentin’s story, the chance meeting of a beautiful young fan girl, Peppy Miller (played by Berenice Bejo), her unassuming yet determined rise into Hollywood and then the train wreck of Valentin’s successful career; the arrival of dialogue to the movies. While not entirely unpredictable, it’s certainly not the kind of plot we expect from movies nowadays; it’s something plucked from a long ago era.

Dujardin acts like he was made for this role with his knock-you-off-your-feet movie star grin, his unfaltering confidence, and the ease with which he assumes the in-your-face acting style needed for silent films. But that’s at the beginning of the movie. As the film goes on, we see a much darker, vulnerable side of Valentin, suddenly a broke alcoholic with no one left to turn to. Dujardin then sips his Scotch with all the dignified hopelessness of a broken man, showing only sporadic flashes of Valentin’s old, confident self. Miller, a sweet unassuming fan girl at first, rises through the tiers of Hollywood as Valentin falls, unknowingly breaking his heart with her sweet smirk and big brown eyes plastered all over movie posters. Bejo is admittedly a bit harder to believe than Dujardin, but eventually slips comfortably into the role of a sexy young actress in the early 1930s.

And, of course, a movie review for “The Artist” cannot be written without a nod to the canine star, eight-year-old Uggie, the Jack Russel terrier. His sweet, `hamming it up for the camera’ manner matches that of his master and his touching loyalty is a heart-warming picture of `man’s best friend’. I believe this film would not be complete without a dog to trot along beside Dujardin, and Uggie was perfect in the role.

The film, though not without its comedic moments, had a dark, sultry feel throughout conveying with ease and brilliance the glamour of the time period, or at least just as glamorous as we like to imagine it was. It’s the 1920s we see in the movies; all dark streets, big eyes and slinky dresses. The cinematography, lighting and shooting techniques blend together gorgeously to give the film its mood and atmosphere, which are all direly important to a silent film. The score, too, is paramount and so it is absolutely stunning. A silent film is nothing without the proper score, and composer Ludovic Bource paints “The Artist” all the colors of the 1920s; grey, black, silver and shimmering golden of swinging dance numbers.

Overall, I give “The Artist” an A-. The minus is added because the plot was a bit thin, and sometimes it seemed like it was stretched too tight over such an artistic film. However, brilliant acting, glamorous scenery and a toe-tapping score more than make up for any of “The Artist”s few shortcomings. It is truly a sweet dessert of a production for any film buff, silent movie lover, or just plain old theater-goer ready for a movie that will definitely be different from the sickly predictable action movies and romances currently gracing America’s movie screens. So grab a tub of popcorn, sit back, and get lost in the glamorous Hollywood that America loves to remember.

‘The Artist” is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) for a disturbing image and a crude gesture.