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Silent movie star George Valentin is affronted when the studio demand that he do this new 'talking' thing that's the next big gimmick in showbusiness. But Peppy Miller isn't so shy...
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.
Goofily gorgeous, heartfelt and endlessly rewatchable, this is the true meaning of escapism - a doorway to another world, a world created to entertain eyes, heart and brain.
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