It may seem astonishing that a black-and-white silent film, made by a French director with a nearly unpronounceable last name (Michel Hazanavicius) and starring two French actors that no one in the U.S. has ever heard of (Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo) would be the frontrunner to win Best Picture at this year’s Oscars.
To which I say: See the film.
Because, truly, once you see The Artist, it will all be clear. It’s made with such visual élan, such an obvious love for the medium, such joie, such wit—it’s about as irresistible as cinema gets.
When we first meet George Valentin (Dujardin), he’s a Hollywood silent film star along the lines of a Douglas Fairbanks (with a little touch of Gene Kelly thrown in). He’s almost drunk on his own swashbuckling charm—but who can blame him? Barrel-chested, light on his feet, possessing a quick, roguish smile—audiences can’t get enough of George, or his devoted sidekick, a scrappy Jack Russell terrier. (In fact, the only person who can get enough of him, it seems, is his put-upon wife, played with a perfect mask of exasperation by Penelope Ann Miller.)
One day, after a premiere, he has an accidental run-in with a wide-eyed...