US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Watch: The Artist

By Patrick McCormick | Print this pagePrint |
The Artist
Directed by Michel Hazanavicius (Weinstein, 2011)

Those not captivated by Michel Hazanavicius’s silent movie must have a tin ear where their heart should be. In this dazzling black and white romance about the fall of a silent matinee idol, Hazanavicius has mixed Top Hat, A Star Is Born, Singing in the Rain, and Citizen Kane, fashioning a Hollywood epic as American and universal as any modern film in a heartwarming cocktail shot through with grace, wit, and charm.

In 1927 George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is Hollywood’s incandescent supernova, a dashing star who looks like Clark Gable and dances like Fred Astaire. Fans worship him, studio moguls bow down before him, and the camera adores him.

Still, with all this blazing talent and charm, Valentin is not eager to embrace the new technology of talking pictures. Movies are about images, style, and grace. Surely Valentin’s glorious looks and amazing skills will always be enough to keep his adoring fans.

They are not, of course. And as the career of the young starlet Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), with whom Valentin has fallen in love, takes off like a Roman candle, Valentin’s plummets like a meteor. Abandoned by his wife, studio heads, and fans, the once luminous star finds that of all the adoring crowds who once swooned over his dazzling smile and fancy footwork, only a single teary friend remains to offer a hand.

Like Valentin, The Artist captivates and enchants with its charm. And like the silent movies, this film strips away language barriers and gives an immediate experience of its universal message. In an age when we are so deeply enamored of every new technology, The Artist reminds us of what is lost from the time when we all held our breath together in a huge theater and thrilled or cried as one at the heartbreaking tale before us.

This article appeared in the March 2012 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 77, No. 3, page 42)