It's difficult to convey the simultaneous loveliness and intelligence of The Artist without resorting to massively off-putting film critic-ish words like 'limitless', 'peerless' and 'irresistible', but I'll do my best to hold them at bay.
This is a truly excellent film, not just one of the films of the year, but a film of the decade. At a time in cinema's history when a lot of brand new technology and cutting edge techniques are being used to tell familiar stories over and over again, here's a film with the chutzpah to ape the oldest style in the book - a silent, black and white film - and use this style to tell a tale involving original characters. Yep, original characters. Not mutants from a comic book, heroes from a long-cancelled TV show, or the younger prequel versions of an old film favourite. Original characters.
Said characters are somehow loveable from the get-go, even though the actors only have their physical presence to work with in gaining our sympathy. No quick witted one-liners or velvety-voiced come-ons here - George Valentin and Peppy Miller are vividly drawn (and with a charm that eludes the majority of contemporary romantic leads), despite (or because of?) George and Peppy's lack of dialogue.
The storyline is hardly radical - the fall of one star, the rise of another - but what really marks The Artist out as a work of genius is how much fun it is. It's easy to convince people you've an artistic soul if you spend your time Suffering Visibly - it's making it all look easy that's hard. But The Artist is one of those elusive films that's both funny, smart and seemingly effortless.