Michel Hazanavicius and actor Jean Dujardin are well known in France for their James Bond spoofs, the ‘OSS 117’ films. Now they hop across the pond to 1920s California for a loving – and silent – recreation of Hollywood on the verge of sound. ‘The Artist’ is shot in exactly the same speechless, monochrome style as the movies in which our tragic hero, actor George Valentin (Dujardin), employs a canny arched eyebrow or breaks out into a rip-roaring tap-dancing routine to woo his adoring audience.
The story is a variation on a theme from A Star Is Born. An older, established star helps a talented young woman on the path to fame, only to see his career decline as she hits the big time. It is a flirtation in which the man is teacher, mentor and lover; in The Artist it is a love made impossible by fate and the reversal of status. Physical consummation is irrelevant: the transactions of power and celebrity involved are sexier than sex.
Silence is golden!