The refined construction of the film is nevertheless barely remarkable, hidden under a simple and familiar story theme, which allowed the director to play with historical perspectives and experiment with the medium. The film is full of surprising twists, genre changes and gags concerning cinema itself. If you listen closely, for instance, "The Artist" is not, strictly speaking, a silent movie. The invasion of sound comes about in the scene of the movie star's nightmare – a witty way to show the artist's fear of the new invention and at the same time a brilliant trick showing the bizarreness of sound in movies at that time. While the movie itself is an exploration of cinema through the clash of silence and sound, it doesn't choose either one of them, but finds a clever reconciliation at the end.
The movie is also a chance to recreate an image of Hollywood in the first half of the 20th century. Unlike many movies, "The Artist" neither criticises nor glorifies the golden age of Hollywood. The director presents the actors with soft irony. Georg Valentin is the epitome of a handsome, self-confident silent movie star; Rudolf Valentino, Gene Kelly and Maurice Chevalier all in one. His young protégé Peppy Miller is a pretty wannabe starlet and a great dancer. Both stubborn and naïve they are gorgeous burlesque caricatures in themselves. Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo (and let's not forget about Uggie – the Jack Russel Terrier) brightly reinterpreted silent cinema acting, translating the archaic mannerisms of silent films in a way that is comprehensible for modern spectators. The duet overcame the risk of irrelevance and overacting and at the same time managed to keep all the slapstick comedy and drama of silent cinema, making it a pure pleasure to watch them on screen. Hollywood hasn't been this entertaining for a long time.
While the happy ending leaves an intact image of Hollywood reconciled with sound and image, it does carry a punchline signalling a much broader discussion on the game of perspectives, national stereotypes and cultural appropriations. Valentin's last and only words - "with pleasure!", pronounced with a strong French accent to reveal the actor's foreign identity - also bring attention to the fact that one of the best recent images of Hollywood has been made by a European director.