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.