The Artist

Michel Hazanavicius's The Artist is a rather surreal silent treatment of the classic old dog / new tricks conceit set in 1920s Hollywood. It was a terrific gamble that was spot on. The film is a wonder. Hazanavicius delivers a picture that is not only fresh but refreshing even for those of us who see a lot of movies. The film's vibrancy radiates from the screen in ways I haven't felt in years. It's compact and precise, like a exquisite timepiece, but with heart. (More on that later.) One immaculately staged scene is representative of the artistry that's in every scene of this film. It takes place on an open stairway in the fictitious Kinograph studios where veteran silent film star George Valentin (a stellar Jean Dujardin) runs into the young starlet he discovered, Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo, what a marvel she is). Valentin has just had an upsetting meeting with studio heads in which it was announced that talkies were the future; the silent age essentailly over. The stairway exchange between George and Peppy moves elegantly from George's anxiousness to Peppy's ardor. It's poignant and pure perfection.

The Artist is a flawless film that bests that other truly flawless work released last year -- Scorsese's Hugo -- in that the meticulousness of the Artists's acting, camera work, staging and design do not compete with one another for the audience's attention or awe. At the end of Hugo, I felt I seen an important work by a master director. At the end of The Artist, I felt the same but also enriched and better for having seen it.

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