The Artist is a 2011 French romantic comedy-drama film in the style of a black-and-white silent film. The film was written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius and stars Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo. The story takes place in Hollywood, between 1927 and 1932, and focuses on the relationship of an older silent film star and a rising young actress as silent cinema falls out of fashion and is replaced by the "talkies". The Artist received strongly positive reviews from critics and won many accolades. Dujardin won the Best Actor Award at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, where the film premiered. The film was nominated for six Golden Globes, the most of any 2011 film, and won three: Best Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, Best Original Score, and Best Actor Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for Dujardin. In January 2012, the film was nominated for twelve BAFTAs, also the most of any film from 2011, and won seven, including Best Film, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay for Hazanavicius, and Best Actor for Dujardin. It was nominated for ten Academy Awards and won five, including Best Picture, Best Director for Hazanavicius, and Best Actor for Dujardin, who was the first French actor ever to win for Best Actor. It was the first French film to ever win Best Picture, and the first mainly silent film to win since 1927's Wings and Sunrise won best picture awards at the 1st Academy Awards in 1929. It was also the first film presented in the 4:3 aspect ratio to win since 1955's Marty, and the first black-and-white film to win since 1993's Schindler's List. In France, it was nominated for ten César Awards, winning six, including Best Film, Best Director for Hazanavicius and Best Actress for Bejo. The Artist became the most awarded French film in history.
In 1927, silent film star George Valentin is posing for pictures outside the premiere of his latest hit film, A Russian Affair, when a young woman, Peppy Miller, accidentally bumps into him. Valentin reacts with humor to the accident and shows off Peppy for the cameras. The next day, Peppy finds herself on the front page of Variety with the headline "Who's That Girl?" Later, Peppy auditions as a dancer and is spotted by Valentin, who insists that she have a part in Kinograph Studios' next production, despite objections from the studio boss, Al Zimmer. While performing a scene together, Valentin and Peppy show great chemistry, despite her being merely an extra. With a little guidance from Valentin (he draws a beauty spot on her, which will eventually be her trademark, after finding her in his dressing room), Peppy slowly rises through the industry, earning more prominent starring roles. Two years later, Zimmer announces the end of production of silent films at Kinograph Studios, but Valentin is dismissive, insisting that sound is just a fad. In a dream, Valentin begins hearing sounds from his environment, but cannot speak himself, then wakes up in a sweat. He decides to produce and direct his own silent film, financing it himself. The film opens on the same day as Peppy's new sound film as well as the 1929 Stock Market Crash. Now Valentin's only chance of avoiding bankruptcy is for his film to be a hit. Unfortunately audiences flock to Peppy's film instead and Valentin is ruined. His wife, Doris, kicks him out, and he moves into an apartment with his valet/chauffeur, Clifton, and his dog. Peppy goes on to become a major Hollywood star. Later, the bankrupt Valentin is forced to auction off all of his personal effects, and fires Clifton, telling him to get another job. Depressed and drunk, Valentin angrily sets a match to his private collection of his earlier films. As the nitrate film quickly blazes out of control he is overwhelmed by the smoke and passes out inside the burning house, still clutching a single film canister. However, Valentin's dog attracts the help of a nearby policeman, and after being rescued Valentin is hospitalized for injuries suffered in the fire. Peppy visits the hospital and discovers that the film he rescued is the one she was first in. She asks for him to be moved to her house to recuperate. Valentin awakens in a bed at her house, to find that Clifton is now working for Peppy. Valentin seems to remain dismissive of Peppy having taken him in, prompting Clifton to sternly remind Valentin of his changing luck. Peppy insists to Zimmer that Valentin co-star in her next film, threatening to quit Kinograph if Zimmer does not agree to her terms. After Valentin learns to his dismay that it had been Peppy that had purchased all his auctioned effects, he returns in despair to his burnt-out apartment. Peppy arrives, panicked, and finds that Valentin is about to attempt suicide. The two reconcile, and remembering Valentin's superb dancing ability, Peppy persuades Zimmer to let them make a musical together. Sound finally comes in as the film starts rolling for a dance scene with Peppy and Valentin. Once the choreography is complete, the two dancers are heard panting, and the only time in the film sound is heard coming from Peppy, who otherwise says nothing. The director of the musical calls out audibly, "Cut!" to which Zimmer adds: "Perfect. Beautiful. Could you give me one more?" Valentin, in his only audible line, replies "With pleasure!" revealing his strong French accent. The camera then pulls back to the sounds of the film crew as they prepare to shoot another take.