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Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman
Michel Hazanavicius's The Artist is a heartfelt and entertaining valentine to classic American cinema. Set during the twilight of Hollywood's silent era and shot on location in Los Angeles, The Artist tells the story of a charismatic movie star unhappily confronting the new world of talking pictures. Mixing comedy, romance and melodrama, The Artist is itself an example of the form it celebrates: a black-and-white silent film that relies on images, actors and music to weave its singular spell.
Hollywood, 1927. George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is one of Hollywood's reigning silent screen idols, instantly recognizable with his slim moustache and signature white tie and tails. Starring in exotic tales of intrigue and derring-do, the actor has turned out hit after hit for Kinograph, the studio run by cigar-chomping mogul Al Zimmer (John Goodman). His success has brought him an elegant mansion and an equally elegant wife, Doris (Penelope Ann Miller). Chauffeured to the studio each day by his devoted driver Clifton (James Cromwell), George is greeted by his own smiling image, emblazoned on the posters prominently placed throughout the Kinograph lot. As he happily mugs for rapturous fans and reporters at his latest film premiere, George is a man indistinguishable from his persona and a star secure in his future.
For young dancer Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), the future will be what she makes of it. Vivacious and good-humoured, with an incandescent smile and a flapper's ease of movement, Peppy first crosses George's path at his film premiere and then as an extra on his latest film at Kinograph. As they film a brief dance sequence, the leading man and the newcomer fall into a natural rhythm, the machinery of moviemaking fading into the background. But the day must finally end, sending the matinee idol and the eager hopeful back to their respective places on the Hollywood ladder.
And Hollywood itself will soon fall under sway of a captivating new starlet: talking pictures. George wants no part of the new technology, scorning the talkie as a vulgar fad destined for the dustbin. By 1929, Kinograph is preparing to cease all silent film production and George faces a choice: embrace sound, like the rising young star Peppy Miller; or risk a slide into obscurity.