Caution: here be some spoilers, probably.
To say I was disappointed in The Artist is disingenuous. I knew the end couldn't be as dark as the plot seemed to be forecasting. Because The Artist mimics, strenuously, the style of its subject matter: not merely technically, but narratively.
Let's run down the list:
Sometimes-deft, sometimes ham-handed comedy: Check.
Set-piece characters: Check. (Note: also known as "stereotypes" or "cliches".)
Artful but obvious symbolism: Check.
Deus ex machina: Check.
Beautiful, orchestral, manipulative-to-the-point-of-cheesy music: Check.
The truth is that about two-thirds of the way through the film, I dared hope (foolishly, I know) that I was seeing a true Aristotelian tragedy. You know, a man in a high place is brought low by his own doing, and then realizes it. But I had forgotten one vital point: that's not how movies were made in 1927. They had cheerful, ambiguous, slightly bittersweet but mostly saccharine resolutions.
I praise The Artist for its stylistic adherence to its subject. But part of me wants to finally see a tragedy be successful.
Oh well. It's one heck of a movie, and well worth a time-investment. I give The Artist Four Point Five Reels in Ian's Totally Subjective Film Rating System.
Long live devotion!