Review: ‘The Artist’ is don’t-miss cinema

September 8, 2011

   With such maestros as David Fincher (“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”), Roman Polanski (“Carnage”) and Lars von Trier (“Melancholia”) coming out with films this fall, cinephiles will need the scheduling skills of an air traffic controller when making their viewing plans through the holidays.

   Surrounded by so many heavy-hitters, an outlier such as “The Artist” could get lost in the shuffle. With luck, it won’t. Michel Hazanavicius’s black-and-white throwback to cinema’s silent era may seem steeped in fusty nostalgia, but it glitters and gleams with utterly of-the-moment wit and romantic zest.

   French actor Jean Dujardin plays George Valentin, a 1920s movie star whose career begins to teeter with the onset of sound; the fetching Berenice Bejo plays Peppy Miller, a go-get-’em gal and ambitious young dancer for whom the new medium seems tailor-made.

   One part “A Star Is Born,” one part “Singin’ in the Rain,” Hazanavicius’s homage celebrates the allure of Hollywood at its most voluptuously glamorous while poking affectionate fun at the artifice. Even with its dialogue written on old-fashioned inter-titles, “The Artist” is anything but mute, with a lush orchestral score and a little sonic wink at the the end; fewer movies this year reward listening — and watching — so lavishly.

— Ann Hornaday

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