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Film Review: "The Artist"

To write off MichelHazanavicius's black-and-white silent film as a gimmick is to miss a creative, touching, and beautiful movie about movies at the end of the silent film era.  Jean Dujardinstars as Georges Valentin, a dashing silent hero - he looks like Gene Kelly crossed with Errol Flynn-  whose career is about to be made obsolete by the talkies. His fall is contrasted with the rise of Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), a young woman with dreams of stardom literally twinkling in her eyes. She possesses what they used to call the "it" factor and starts her career as an extra in one of his films. What also kicks in his their fondness for one another, which is shown building up to inevitability in five successive takes on the set of the film-within-the film. Other than the lush orchestral score, sound is employed only twice. The first time is when Valentin is realizing that sound is coming to the movies regardless and, in his dressing room, we hear the sound of a glass hitting the table and the clinking and clanking of various items on his dressing room table. Hazanavicious also has a love for metaphor, and films a nice bit where Valentin is shown in probably his last silent film slowly sinking into quicksand. The movie's an absolute joy and emits throughout a palpable love of cinema.

Since 1998, Steve Walker has contributed stories and interviews about theater, visual arts, and music as an arts reporter at KCUR. He's also one of Up to Date's regular trio of critics who discuss the latest in art, independent and documentary films playing on area screens.
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