The Artist (2011) Director: Michel Hazanavicius
The Artist is a French, modern silent film. 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 “Kinograph” a nod to the early Kinetoscope and Biograph Studios, blended into one word. The film is entirely silent until an amusing scene where sound is suddenly introduced, and at the very end, the actor speaks, revealing a deeply French accent. It won a cavalcade of awards, including Best Picture.
The chief inspiration for the script came from Douglas Fairbanks (who, in fact, I believe appears in a clip from Zorro briefly while the main character watches a film in his home). The story was written as a love letter to the cinematic art, drawing on 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 bit self-indulgent and melodramatic. As a lover of the silent era in film, I was delighted by this film.