Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Artist

Who would think you would appreciate a black & white, silent film in 2011? "The Artist" is an absolute delight from start to finish. Writer/director Michel Hazanavicius crafts a Hollywood love letter to the age of silent movies. There hasn't been anything like this since the Mel Brooks comedy "Silent Movie" and it is a treat to experience a film the way an audience did in 1929.

To be fair, there are a few well placed sounds that come as a surprise but 99% of the film is truly silent. And once the novelty wears off, you are already engaged in the story and charmed by the lead actors and a very clever Jack Russell terrier. Uggy the dog steals every scene he's in but the film really belongs to Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo.

Mr. Dujardin is best known for the French spy spoofs, "OSS 117: Lost in Rio" and "OSS 117: Cairo Nest of Spies", two films previously done with Mr. Hazanavicius. In those comedies, he was a charming but clueless secret agent. In "The Artist", Mr. Dujardin is more charming than ever but he also reveals a depth of acting (and dancing) that we have not seen before. Ms. Berenice may be new to American audiences but she will not be forgotten. She displays a wide emotional range and is filled with unlimited energy, acting and dancing her way into your memory. The two stars have great chemistry together.

The film co-stars John Goodman, James Cromwell and Penelope Ann Miller. All three are terrific in non- speaking parts that let their expressions do the talking. The cinematography is sharp and clear and the score is just wonderful, substituting music for dialogue that works so well.

"The Artist" is joyful entertainment. Don't miss it.

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