"The Artist" is a French silent film with dashing Jean Dujardin and the wife of the film's director, lively Argentinian actress, Berenice Bejo. The plot is set in Hollywood just over 80 years ago, just at the point when "talkies" took over from silent films.
Expressive male lead (the "artist") Dujardin, is an athletic man, whose perfect teeth and smile will forever haunt your dreams. He is Errol Flynn reborn - but better - and perfectly captures the late 20s and 30s "mood". One could easily believe that this actor was born in 1895, not 1972.
Our "hero" is overwhelmed, as the film opens, by his matinee "image" (his unreal "ego"), even to the point of ungraciously preventing his female co-star taking any applause or limelight for her role.
This superinflated ego, like a mature star (astronomical star) has become a "Red Giant". This has already ruined our "hero's" life, and already his only real friend is Jack Russell (his faithful dog), played by Uggie, who mirrors his unfeeling, selfish, infantile behaviours - emotional manipulation or "sulking mimed" being a strong suit.
The ensuing story is predictable: the old star collapses into a "White Dwarf star" - and a new Hollywood star is born. The film is highly relevant today in showing sudden economic collapse - and its devastating impacts.
Romance, style and gracefulness are integral to the fashions of the early 1930s. Women's clothes were both feminine and modern. The hair is crimped (how did they achieve that?). The cars are driven by uniformed chauffeurs - and have dashing "zebra" wheels. Paradoxically, the devoted butler and chauffeur is the same actor who played The Duke of Edinburgh in "The Queen".
The film portrays an age of luxury which was also innocent, conveyed with lightheartedness, joie de vivre, tap-dancing and perfect lighting. There is no sense of "silence" in the film - or need for dialogue, since instead there is romantic film music. This avoids "blue" words and abuse - silence is calming and refreshing. There are "too many words" today - as Ben Jonson wrongly said of Shakespeare. Or rather, there are too many "half-informed" words....
"The Artist" is technically seemless. One reviewer has said, it is like driving a vintage 1930s car, using GPS.
But my perceptive husband spotted the real magic of "The Artist". The plot is a Christian metaphor. "The Artist" could even be shown in churches, to teach New Testament theology.
It is the story of "Grace". "Grace" is the concept of God sending someone, His Son, to save sinners from the evil fruits of their own rebellion, stupidity and sin ("the proud and obstinate rebel").
Pride and hardness of heart is "the disease" already eating them away from inside, even as they seem blessed, happy and prosperous. But God's grace is compassion, love and mercy - for the undeserving. It is real love, while all other loves are self-seeking to some degree.
Grace undertakes sweet, loving things, totally hidden away, to anonymously win the beloved from the "disease of self" - by humbling themself. Grace ultimately helps the beloved find his/her true "role" - in finding and being "their true self" - a real person of maturity, humility and self-knowledge, not "an image" of one.
Is "the greatest story ever told" the real secret of this delightful film? We think so.
Needless to say, we give it 5 stars....