The Artist
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The Artist

This silent film about silent films proves irresistibly charming.

Michel Hazanavicius (France, Special Presentations)

Friday, September 9, 6 p.m.
Visa Screening Room (189 Yonge Street)

Saturday, September 10, 10 a.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 (350 King Street West)

A wet-eyed ode to the silent film era (and itself a silent film), The Artist opens in 1927, when swashbuckling film star George Valentine (Jean Dujardin) is a major star, mugging for packed movie houses and pre-paparazzi cameras with his lovable pet mutt (played by Uggy, who, actually, won a Palm Dog award at this year’s Cannes film festival for his performance). But, channeling The Jazz Singer and Singin’ in the Rain, George’s career is thrown into crisis with the advent of the “talkies,” which he initially laughs off as a flash-in-the-pan novelty. He’s booted by the head of fictional Kinograph Studios (a noticeably trim John Goodman) while newly-minted starlet Peppy Miller (the impossibly lovely Bérénice Bejo) rises to the top.

While it spends entirely too much time wallowing around in George’s tight-lipped career crisis (though a sound-tinted nightmare sequence of cacophonous foley effects is a highlight), The Artist memorializes a particular, and definitive, moment in cinema’s short history with exceptional wit and whimsy. More than novel, Hazanavicius channels the ghosts of an era where things where staging, gusto, and wild gesticulations give life to the cinema, and when its status as crowd-pleasing popular entertainment was never more pure.