CANNES, France -- The talk Sunday at the Cannes Film Festival was about the movie that doesn't talk: a silent film about a 1920s Hollywood star toppled by the age of talkies.

French director Michel Hazanavicius' "The Artist" employs lush music, well-chosen but restrained sound effects and no spoken words except in one brief scene.

The result is an old-timey comic melodrama about the pitfalls of artistic pride and the power of romantic redemption that earned sustained applause at its first press screening, a rarity for notoriously snooty Cannes critics.

A last-minute addition to the lineup of 20 films competing for the festival's top honor, the Palme d'Or, "The Artist" is shot in black and white, conveys its limited dialogue through silent-movie title cards and is presented in the boxy format of early cinema instead of today's widescreen panoramas.

"We live in a time when people are crazy about 3-D films, people are crazy about technical innovation. Everything seems to be focused on images, and suddenly someone wanted to tell a very odd tale using this format that is a silent movie in black and white," "The Artist" producer Thomas Langmann said before the film's official Cannes premiere Sunday night.