Yep, the silent. Watched it last night. What a fine, good-hearted and delightful film!
I've not seen many original silents; the best of those, Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood at the old Marion (IN) Memorial Coliseum, with a first-rate organist sweating himself skinny on the freshly restored pipe organ and a projector running at the proper speed* with a nice big screen, was more than enough to make me a fan. (Seriously, Doug Fairbanks in his prime? Swooooon!)
...And as it turns out, the title character in The Artist is indeed loosely based on Fairbanks, and played with remarkable grace and elan by Jean Dujardin; his opposite number is not so closely based on any one actress (as far as I could tell, though she has a more than passing resemblance to aviatrix Amelia Earhart!) but Bérénice Bejo was a marvelous choice and manages the look of the times (late 1920s through early '30s) extraordinarily well.
It's an engaging story, well-told; the sets and props are just about 100% right (give or take a record player) and the look of the thing is correct, too, right down to lens shadows when a really wide lens is in use. (Gunnies will appreciate the S&W revolver with hammer-mounted firing pin.)
If you like silent films -- or think you could bear one -- this is a film to see.
I happened to watch this film for an odd reason; two-thirds of the way through reading The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (in the dollar bin at the used-book store!), I wanted to see if my recollections of the divergence between book and (Swedish) film was correct. (It was, mostly; and the screenwriter did a smooth job of it, too). After two hours and twenty minutes of subtitles, a few title cards are no hurdle at all and I wanted to look at something a little less grim. It was good choice.
* Silents don't crank at the same rate as talkies. --And neither did the cameras for The Artist.
T. R. MCELROY'S STREAMLINED TELEGRAPH KEYS
3 months ago