Okay. Toss out any other film of the year, no matter how fine. THE ARTIST is an instant classic. Taking its cue (homage? ) from some of filmland's greats, (i.e. SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, SUNSET BOULEVARD, VERTIGO(!) and especially the 1936 A STAR IS BORN, THE ARTIST finds its own voice in being totally original and ground breaking.
Shot in standard screen (no scope here) in glorious black and white with no words spoken until the end, every moment in THE ARTIST is brilliantly thought out and executed. In a wonderful scene, George, a John Gilbert-like silent screen star finds he is no longer wanted at his studio as sound has come in and he passe, an instant has been. On a wonderful set made of staircases, George talks to an up and coming star, he of course on a lower step, the younger star on the higher, as extras and studio people rush around them. George's day in the sun is over; the world is passing him by. The thought that went into such small moments (and there are many of them) bring this film head and shoulders above all of the other releases of 2011. Though THE HELP and THE DESCENDANTS will have their champions, (I liked the former and not the latter) THE ARTIST is a true work of art on every level. It begins as bubbly as champagne, finds a middle section that will break your heart and ends with the kind of hope that will make you leave the theater (or turning off the DVD) walking on air.
And oh, that cast! Jean Dujardin (of whom I knew nothing before this) is, in a word, magnificent. If I had to give a best actor award this year it would be between him and Joel Edgerton in WARRIOR, and Dujardin would get my vote. Without saying a word this brilliant actor goes from Douglas Fairbanks to Charlie Chaplin to Buster Keaton ending as Fred Astaire in a truly bravura performance. His co star Bernice Bejo (again, unknown to me) is a new (at least in America) actress to be reckoned with. Multi- talented, Ms. Bejo brings a warmth and sensitivity to a part that might have been run of the mill in the hands of a lesser actress. It won't happen, but she deserves an Oscar nomination. The wonderful James Cromwell (the kindly farmer in BABE and Prince Philip in THE QUEEN) is sensational as Dujardin's loyal chauffeur and butler while John Goodman steals every scene he is in as the head of the studio. If the director, Michel Hazanavicius is not up for an Oscar there simply is no justice.
There have been some wonderful films this last year but, in my humble opinion, THE ARTIST is the best of them all. By all means, see it!!!!