“THE ARTIST” – Silents, please! – A masterpiece in B&W, starring Jean Dujardin

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Sean Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

It’s 1927 – popular silent film romantic leading man George Valentin is attending the world premiere of his new film, “A Russian Affair”. That’s him, right there at curbside, checking out the latest in shiny Packard convertibles, and cavorting for the fans. The marquee of the La Reina Theatre shimmers with his name in bold letters, while that of his leading lady, “Constance Gray” – presumably the “Russian” on the soon-to-be receiving end of Mr. Valentin’s irresistible charms – gets a smaller-sized mention, down over there in the corner somewhere. Nobody notices. Because it’s all about the dashing Mr. George Valentin. It’s all been All About George for quite some time now. His smile, his swashbuckling charm, the perfect hair, his very in-vogue pencil-thin moustache, his golf game, the great car – complete with an aristocratic chauffeur! George Valentin has got “IT”. And like Douglas Fairbanks, the guy just can’t stop dancing and clowning around – especially when the reporters are trying to capture a few quotes. About anything! But, no matter – let him do his thing – he’s just so damn charming.

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THE ARTIST

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JEAN DUJARDIN (“George”) and BÉRÉNICE BEJO (“Peppy”)

In fact, right now, right in front of the theatre, George has stolen the heart of another pretty young thing. Peppy Miller. One of those “flappers” – with the bobbed hair, cloche hat, beauty mark, short skirts, rouged knees, the works. All she wanted was to catch a glimpse of him, maybe get an autograph, or something. A screen test? Whatever, to everybody else one quick step away from the red carpet, it sure looked like love at first sight. That George! What a guy.

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JOHN GOODMAN (“Al Zimmer”)

As for the execs at Kinograph Studios – they’re inhaling that oh-so-familiar sweet smell of success frOM their No. 1 Box Office Draw. George Valentin. Hero to men, fantasy lover to women everywhere. That is, until the Execs get word from New York about the jolting success of their rivals’ (the Warner Brothers) new film – a “Talkie” – starring Al Jolson, “The Jazz Singer”. A film with sound? They said it wouldn’t catch on! But there’s Jolson – all talking, all dancing, all singing – like you’ve never heard anyone sing before. What other reels do the Warners have ready to roll? George Valentin and his supposed to be intriguing mummer “Russian Affair” are suddenly yesterday’s sour borscht.

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JEAN DUJARDIN (“George Valentin”)

THE ARTIST, written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius, is a masterpiece. The hallmarks and tropes from the great era of Silent Screen have been gloriously resuscitated into a captivating comedy drama guaranteed to melt the heart. The film requires no explanations, no footnotes, no apologies. The original score follows time-honored musical traditions of Silent Film – always unfolding the psychological underpinnings, coloring the physical antics and perilous plights, and bathing in love those long lingering close-ups.

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JAMES CROMWELL (“Clifton”) – BÉRÉNICE BEJO (“Peppy”)

The Artist looks and feels like Oscar nominations all around. Jean Dujardin has already taken the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actor. Supporting nominations may be a toss-up between James Cromwell as “Clifton”, George’s totally loyal chauffeur, and John Goodman as studio executive, “Al Zimmer”. Watch for a true and sparkling cameo appearance by Malcolm McDowell as “The Butler”.

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JEAN DUJARDIN (“George Valentin”) and MISSI PYLE (“Constance Gray”)

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