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Review: 'The Artist,' a Loving Tribute to a Bygone Era of Hollywood

What sets “The Artist” apart from so many movies that come out these days is its absolute love of films.

Every once in a while a film comes along that is different from all the others.

It is a film that breaks all the rules, does what nobody else thinks can be done and proves everybody wrong. “The Artist” is one of those films. What makes this film so different might seem obvious — in fact a movie like this probably has not been made in around 70 years. It is a silent film, with only very minimal dialogue and music on the soundtrack and it is shot in black and white, an art form that has been lost in recent years. But these are only aesthetic differences, and don’t tell the real story of what makes “The Artist” so special.

French star Jean Dujardin is George Valentin, a swashbuckling silent film actor in the vein of Douglas Fairbanks. Valentin is such a huge star that a few accidental meetings with a young girl named Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) is enough to launch her to stardom. Soon, though, the silent era comes to a screeching halt with the invention of talkies, and George, like so many real-life silent film actors, simply can’t make the transition to having to speak on camera. As George’s life comes crashing down around him, he must decide if he can learn to express himself in this new way and survive in this new era of film.

What sets “The Artist” apart from so many movies that come out these days is its absolute love of films, especially those of the silent era. There are homages to films as diverse as “The Mark of Zorro,” “Citizen Kane,” “The Thin Man,” “A Place in the Sun” and “Top Hat.” Rather than just mimicking the style of these films, or just stealing shots from them, “The Artist” uses them to create a loving tribute to a bygone era of Hollywood, when movies were driven by story and character.

When most people hear the term “silent movie” nowadays, their eyes probably glaze over. They will automatically think that it will be boring, or hammy or hard to follow. “The Artist” could not be further from any of those things. In fact, it is almost exhilarating to watch. It is obvious that director Michel Hazanavicius and the actors were having a lot of fun recreating this long-gone period. This film is a reminder that there was a time before special effects and 3D, and that no amount of money can ever replace the feeling you get from seeing an actor emote on screen. If just one person goes and seeks out old and silent films because they saw "The Artist," then its mission will have been fulfilled. 

"The Artist" is the Hamptons International Film Festival closing night film. It screens Sunday at 8 p.m. at . Arrive early for rush tickets at the box office.

Brendan J. O'Reilly (Editor) December 15, 2011 at 01:45 PM
Jean Dujardin was nominated for a Golden Globe today. He is also nominated for a SAG award for best actor, and Berenice Bejo is nominated for best supporting actress. The whole cast is nominated by SAG for best cast.
Brendan J. O'Reilly (Editor) January 24, 2012 at 04:53 PM
Jean Dujardin nominated for Best Actor today and "The Artist" nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.
Brendan J. O'Reilly (Editor) February 27, 2012 at 05:02 AM
"The Artist" has won Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor.

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