Movies fêted amid the hothouse atmosphere of a film festival often disappoint when seen in the cooler environment of a commercial release. Not so with this glorious, black-and-white comic tribute to silent cinema. After dazzling viewers at Cannes last year, when it seemed to come straight out of nowhere, it turns out to be an inventive and deliriously entertaining charmer that instead of going for knowing send-up or ironic pastiche, expresses genuine love and appreciation for early Hollywood.

French writer-director Michel Hazanavicius was previously known for OSS 117, a low-brow espionage spoof popular enough in France to produce a sequel, but The Artistmanages to be both broadly accessible and sophisticated in its understanding of cinema. It’s helped enormously by the freshness of its two stars, Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo, who respectively play silent matinee idol George Valentin, and Peppy Miller, the dancing flapper girl who adores him before a reversal of fortune sees them swapping places in the public’s affection (the theme of the talkies killing off the silent era fondly echoing the classic musical Singin’ In The Rain). There’s no dialogue, of course, but there is a gorgeous score – and a cute...