As a trainee projectionist at a small-town French cinema, I naturally get to see quite a few films. Occasionally, they are screened before their UK release. And very occasionally, as here, they are brilliant. In short, it's one of my two recommendations of the year. (The other, incidentally, is Intouchables, another superb film which also suggests that the glory days of French cinema are not all in the past.)
It is vital not to give too much away. Suffice it to say that the plot revolves around the male lead, a silent movie icon (played by Jean Dujardin) and his efforts to cope with dwindling fame brought about by the Hollywood vogue for 'talkies' at the end of the Twenties. Sound is completely alien to his kind of cinema and, of course, being a silent film itself, The Actor shows the world from his perspective. But The Actor isn't completely mute, as we hear on just a couple of occasions. One instance comes right at the end and explains ... well, something quite important.
I'd never heard of the principal actors. Both are utterly captivating. Director Michel Hazanavicius (incidentally, the husband of the female lead, Berenice Bejo) has apparently wanted to make a silent movie for ages. The long gestation period shows in this thoughtful, clever homage to Hollywood's silent era. Implausibly, a modern film without (much) sound or colour maintains viewer interest throughout. It is witty, impossibly romantic, intriguing and, above all, a must-see for anyone who's losing their love of cinema. What should be nothing more than an interesting idea or a bit of a cliché (note the fire, dog and policeman episode), is in fact the absolute opposite: fresh and original. And one of the best films of the year.