Directed by: Michael Hazanavicius
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell
The Artist takes place in an era when at night at the movie theater is a big event. Everyone dresses formally to come and watch the big screen with an actual live orchestra playing the score to the film being shown. Movies are ran by studios, and the stars of the studios can command the world's attention. A low-level studio actor can work their way to the top if they are lucky enough.
George Valentin (Dujardin) is a silent film icon. He is revered by his audiences, and is the star of Tinseltown. A woman named Peppy Miller (Bejo) who is enamored by Valentin, is trying to make her break onto the big screen. Valentin takes her under his wing, and gives her tips on the business...even giving her a trademark that will make her stand out from the rest. As Hollywood makes the switch from silent film to "talkies," Valentin has become extinct, and is let go by studio head Al Zimmer (Goodman.) He tries to make a go of producing his own silent film, but fails miserably. After the crash of the stock market in 1929, Valentin finds himself broke; his wife has left him and he is now living in squalor. The only people left in his life are his faithful butler, Clifton (Cromwell) and his beloved Jack-Russel Terrier, Uggy. Meanwhile, Peppy Miller has worked her way up from studio actor to being a Marquee Star in the new era of talking motion pictures. Over the next several years, we watch as George Valentine goes from riches to rags, and Peppy Miller goes from rags to riches. Without spoiling the rest of the plot, the end of the film gives way to another era of cinema with the big-band/dancing-musical films of pre-World War II.
This film is a must see for any film buff...or for those wanting a better understanding of how film started in this country. Silent films relied heavily on over-acting with casual black and white captions to get the dialogue across. Actions truly spoke louder than words in this era of cinema, and it gives you a better appreciation of films that are made today. With a striking resemblance to Gene Kelly (who wasn't a silent film star), Jean Dujardin carries out his role with the likeness of a Douglas Fairbanks. Director Michael Hazanavicius does an excellent job of putting together a casting ensemble who truly make their characters believable in their silent roles. The entire mise-en-scene of the film works poetically in making this film look like it was shot in the 1920s.
The Artist is a tribute to silent film that is a silent film itself, only breaking the "no sound" rule twice during the entire 100 minutes.