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The Daily Tar Heel

“The Artist” is not a cool or interesting movie. In fact, it resents such accusations.

Lacking sound and color, the film marks a return to the early days of filmmaking when applause was measured solely by strength of visual storytelling. Itself a story about a silent film actor who refuses to make talkies, the film might seem inviting of praise for how cleverly it blends form and content.

But let’s resist, for the very same reason why this film was made: There’s nothing complex or clever about the way movies reach people. A simple marriage of image and music, “The Artist” sweeps audiences away into a predictable love story made beautiful by silent simplicity which mustn’t be reduced to cool, clever gimmickry.

To make this warmly emotional film, Director Michel Hazanavicius relied only on the magic of cinematic storytelling, and this reliance deserves acclaim instead of the magic itself.

The film centers on George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), a silent-era movie star who accidentally meets fangirl Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo). Peppy’s acting career flourishes with the dawn of movie sound, while George’s starts plummeting. Though they share a romantic spark, George vows not to bring her down with him, and there’s no telling how deep he’ll fall.

Letting tones rise to melodramatic extremes, Hazanavicius stays true to the era he’s honoring. When George gets mad, he smashes things; when Peppy grows frantic, she drives into a pole. Yet it never feels contrived.

Thank Dujardin, who sports expressive exaggeration of silent-film tradition while underplaying his role for the close-ups of modern day style. The balance moves and entertains all at once.

Dancing from side to side on a melodramatic binary of passion and despair, Ludovic Bource’s beautiful score marks the yin to Hazanavicius’s visual yang. It certainly has a place on your iTunes playlist.

The best movies make you feel like a child; through illusions of three-dimensional space, they make you want to forget they’re unreal. Honoring and capitalizing on this magic, “The Artist” actually infantilizes.

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