Silent movies aren’t a genre, they’re a method. All the genres we recognize — westerns, sci-fi, crime pictures, comedies, melodrama — existed in 1927. The Artist gets this wrong from the beginning: it doesn’t know what it is except a brilliantined nod of the head whose novelty dissipates after a hundred long minutes. Writer-director Michael Hazanavicius recreates the art direction and wardrobe of movies in the late twenties but misses their madcap pace, their surrealism, their eroticism. The wisp of a plot — the decline of the silent career of George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) before The Love of a Good Woman (Berenice Bejo)dusts him off — he purloins from Singin’ in the Rain; with his pencil mustache and panderer’s grin, Valentin is a waxen Gene Kelly, and Bejo an unsinkable Debbie Reynolds. The movie has one lyrical moment: Bejo, alone in Valentin’s dressing room, carried away by lust, puts her arm through his tuxedo jacket sleeve and caresses herself; it’s worthy of G. W. Pabst (I think it’s lust: Bejo’s motivations for anything remain opaque). I got very bored with these people and movie quickly. Why The Artist is an Oscar frontrunner is obvious: it flatters the ahistorical imaginations of Academy voters.