The Artist (2011)
This little French film is a clever, romantic and enjoyable metafilm made with the methods and style of 1920s filmmaking (it's a black-and-white silent film), but with the perspectives of our modern era. The plot is spun around a simple love story about a generous silent film star named George Valentine (Jean Dujardin) who is too proud to make the transition to sound film when this technology takes over, and soon finds that his popularity, fortune and wife has deserted him. Meanwhile, a bright young starlet (Bérénice Bejo) who once made her debut in one of Valentine's films, partly thanks to him, emerges as the biggest star of the burgeoning sound film era. Despite her fame, however, she has never forgotten the silent star who gave her her big break.
The Artist is at its best when toying with the vintage conventions on which the film's style and form is based. The meta-level is delicately and subtly explored, and thus never gets in the way of the charming and poignant, if simple, story. This is a clever move by writer/director Michel Hazanavicius, who resists the temptation of making too much of a statement with his retro style. Compared with the best films of the silent era it depicts, The Artist holds its own when it comes to story and soul, with strong, attractive performances by the two leads. To say it is innovative or even particularly creative would be strangely reactionary, but it's a fine film indeed.