The Artist (2011) Director: Michel Hazanavicius
The Artist is a French, modern silent film that is an homage to Old Hollywood. It takes place in the late 1920s as an aging silent film star in Hollywood loses his appeal during the advent of “talkies,” while a rising young star (his lover) gains popularity. I appreciated the allusion to thee “Kinograph” a nod to the early Kinetoscope and Biograph Studios blended into one word. The film is entirely silent until one notably amusing scene where sound is suddenly introduced, and at the very end, the actor speaks, revealing a deeply French accent. The Artist won a cavalcade of awards, including Best Picture.
The chief inspiration for the script came from the “King of Hollywood” Douglas Fairbanks (who, in fact, I believe appears in a clip from Zorro briefly while the main character watches the film in his home). The story was written as a love letter to the cinematic art, drawing upon inspiration from Hitchcock, Lang, Lubistch, Murnau, and Wilder.
The film is at once fun and silly, as well as tragic and beautiful. We only hear sound about halfway through the film when the main character cannot speak, but he hears his glass set down on the table, and he appears confused. The scene is extraordinary. It is a remarkable film, though it has been criticized as being “oscar-bait” and is a bit self-indulgent and melodramatic. As a lover of the silent era in film history, I was delighted by this film.
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