An immaculate film that will win your cryptic heart.
While several other acclaimed films of 2011 have yet to make it to a theater here in Indianapolis, The Artist is as emotionally uplifting as it is heartbreaking. It remarkably provides a stunning tribute to the ultimate decency of mankind. It ranks with The Help as the best film of the year.
The Artist begins in Hollywood in 1927, when the acclaimed movie star, George Valentin, dominates the silver screen. This is the era of the silent film, and Mr. Valentin is a combination of Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin. Everybody loves him (if you exclude his wife), and he knows it.
What is unfortunate for Mr. Valentin is that talking pictures are about to make their mark, and he is almost immediately left out in the cold. As a result, he goes from the top of the mountain to the gutter rather quickly, left to try to grasp the change in his profession that he is all but incapable of displaying.
What follows next is the ultimate insult, namely a young starlet named Peppy Miller who bolts to the top of the screen based largely on her voice. A former protégé of Valentin, his personality is left in hopeless turmoil as he watches his professional career disappear, his marriage collapse, while his fortune goes up in smoke during the crash of 1929.
What makes The Artist so spectacular are some extraordinary performances by Mr. Jean Dujardin and Ms. Berenice Bejo as the illustrious Mr. Valentin and Ms. Miller. They are both captivating and loveable, and your heart is left aching for Mr. Valentin as he faces ultimate disaster despite the undying loyalty of his faithful little dog.
In addition, one should point out the tremendous performances by John Goodman, James Cromwell, and Ms. Penelope Ann Miller. They are able to add a magnificent background in silent roles as a movie director, Mr. Valentin’s chauffeur and bored wife. As actors they have always been good, but never better.
Additionally, having just been released from a hospital after several weeks following a collision with a motorcycle that literally could have left me in ruin, I could not help but embrace The Artist as Mr. Valentin faced a similar end. Here was an actor who worked hard at reaching the top of his artistic game, and he simply couldn’t bring himself to face his ultimate disappointment and disillusion.
However, what made The Artist so overpowering was how Ms. Miller would not allow Mr. Valentin to be destroyed. Despite the fact that he repeatedly rejected her help, she loved him more than words can express, and watching them succeed in the end was a moment of unspeakable bliss.
Quite honestly, I have read a great deal about the early period in Hollywood when stars like Charlie Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle and Rudolph Valentino dominated the screen. It was a golden moment in movie history, and The Artist brings its majesty back to the screen.
In the end, there is no denying the directing talent of Michel Hazanavicius. While he deserves an Oscar nomination, he has brought us a holiday gift we all should treasure.