Writer-director Michel Hazanavicius’ exuberant throwback — a black-and-white movie, with nearly zero spoken dialogue, set in 1927 — has the clarity and grace to delight homage-mad nostalgists without alienating everyone else. Set at the dawn of the talkies and framed around the romance between a has-been silent movie star (Jean Dujardin) and an upstart extra (Bérénice Bejo), its structure is slight but sound. More important is the will to entertain, as promulgated through the enduring cinematic values of radiant chemistry and technical precision. Hazanavicius has a light touch, and manages sophistication without pretension. This isn’t and needn’t be the best-ever movie about one decisive moment in Hollywood history — and who would even presume to top “Singin’ in the Rain”? Nor is “The Artist” a call for reversion so much as a touchingly sincere comment on coping with a forward-lurching world. In that regard, and on account of never being boring, it is highly contemporary stuff. John Goodman and James Cromwell co-star.