x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

The Artist

Whether as romantic fairy tale, razzle-dazzle spectacle or loving tribute to a more innocent age, you will enjoy it.

Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell
****

Rapidly becoming the left-field smash hit of the year, this dazzling experiment in cinematic retro-homage has already earned numerous awards and an impressive 10 Oscar nominations. An exquisitely composed monochrome love letter to Hollywood in the silent era, The Artist is a technical marvel containing no spoken dialogue besides a couple of lines, but it is much more of a clever 21st-century pastiche than a slavish recreation. It is also fast-moving, very funny and hugely charming.

Previously best known for his French-language spy-thriller spoofs, the director Hazanavicius again casts his regular leading man Dujardin as a suave 1920s Hollywood silent star: a sword-fighting, tap-dancing romantic hero in the Douglas Fairbanks or Clark Gable mode.

The luminous Bejo, the director's off-screen wife, plays the young acting hopeful who eventually replaces her stubbornly old-fashioned co-star in the public's affections following the dawn of talking pictures. The shaky romance that blossoms between them, of course, borrows knowingly from A Star Is Born.

The Artist is brilliantly engineered for universal appeal. The story is sweet and wholesome enough to delight mainstream viewers, while film historians and movie geeks will enjoy painstaking technical details such as the authentically vintage screen aspect ratio, plus in-jokey allusions to golden-age Hollywood stars such as Greta Garbo, Harold Lloyd and Mary Pickford. Enjoy it as romantic fairy tale, as razzle-dazzle spectacle or as loving tribute to a more innocent age - but whatever your reasons, you will enjoy it. Because Hazanavicius has made the life-affirming, heartwarming, feel-good film of the year. Resistance is futile.