Here’s an interesting fact: Three out of the last four winners of the Academy Award for Best Picture have been foreign-made. Though the latest, “The Artist,” is somewhat debatable in that it was shot in Los Angeles with a few recognizable American actors in supporting parts. But the filmmakers and lead performers are French.
In actuality, “The Artist” is a really film that transcends borders. It’s a love song to silent American films as seen from across the Atlantic.
If you haven’t already seen this wonderful movie — easily the best of 2011 — you may be put off by the knowledge that “The Artist” is silent and black-and-white. Don’t be. While certainly artistic, this film isn’t arty.
Instead, it’s a gorgeous and emotionally transporting celebration of cinema. Jean Dujardin plays George Valentin, vainglorious king of Hollywood until the “talkies” invade and make him seem artistically antiquated. Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) is the spitfire ingénue who lands a bit part in one of his movies and turns into a big star herself.
Dujardin is a delight as the narcissistic but generous-hearted Valentin. With a pencil mustache and raconteur’s smile, he’s part Errol Flynn and part Gene Kelly — especially during the smash musical finale.
Writer/director Michel Hazanavicius gives us a film that is self-aware but not self-absorbed. Foreign or not, “The Artist” is a triumph.
Extra features are commendable, if not as extensive as I might like.
There’s a blooper reel and a Q&A with the cast and filmmakers. A half-dozen making-of featurettes explore topics like the film score and costumes to the Hollywood locations used throughout the film.
Film: 5 Yaps
Extras: 4 Yaps