THE ARTIST (Alliance, 2011) D: Michel Hazanavicius, w/ Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo. Rating: NNNNN; Blu-ray package: NNNN Rating: NNNNN
Toss out any qualms you might have about watching a black-and-white silent movie. The images in this year's best-picture Oscar winner are lovely, and the storytelling is crystal clear. The cast is flawless, and the leads have charisma to burn.
In 1928, top silent movie star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) meets Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), a mere extra. Romance buds but does not blossom. The talkies arrive, but George turns his back. Peppy's career soars while his plummets into drink and despair.
Dujardin plays Valentin as a cross between Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Gene Kelly: athletic, graceful, charming and more than a little vain. Bejo steals the show with a million-watt smile, sparkling eyes and non-stop kinetic energy. Their performances are so expressive that you don't miss the dialogue at all. The rest of the cast, headed by John Goodman, James Cromwell and Missi Pyle are just as good. Catch the extras' Q&A for a discussion of acting without dialogue.
Director Michel Hazanavicius tells the story with expressive compositions throughout, and a few show-stopping set pieces and bravura shots. You'll find his insights on visual technique scattered throughout the extras.
EXTRAS Making-of doc and mini-docs, cast and crew Q&A, locations doc, bloopers. No spoken audio. English, French, Spanish subtitles.