Silence is Golden for ‘The Artist’
Two completely different films led this years Oscar race for the Best Motion Picture, but silence proved golden as Sam Murphy reports.
Silence is officially Golden! The Artist wins one of the show’s top awards by collecting the gong for Best Motion Picture – Comedy Or Musical.
On one end of the spectrum is Hugo, a 3D, high budget Scorsese film. On the other The Artist, a silent, black and white French film. Both films transported viewers back to the origins of film through their nostalgia inducing stories and imagery.
Visually, they were starkly different. Audiences of ‘Hugo’ sat with 3D glasses while those of ‘The Artist’ watched a grainy, black and white film. Hugo was accompanied by surround sound. The Artist simply relied on a minimal soundtrack with no dialogue. Viewers flocked to the former with few rushing to the latter.
Against all odds The Artist took out best film at the 84th Academy Awards, becoming the the first silent film to do so since ‘Wings’ in 1927. While garnering rave reviews from critics, it begged the question, was it simply a one-off or the beginning of a back to basics trend in the film industry?
Daivd Dale, film critic and author, believes it is definitely a one-off.
“There may be one or two other silent films made as a result of ‘The Artist’ but it seems to be a one off,” Dale said.
The Artist is the brainchild of French director Michel Hazanavicius. The success of the film has transcended beyond its homelan, garnering stellar reviews from prominent global print media such as the New York Times and the UK Guardian.
However, Dale said it’s a “case of nostalgia for the film-maker rather than the viewer.” He said despite its critical praise it isn’t “translating into bums-on-seats.”
“The movie is cute but doesn’t have much substance…watching it for the second time may not have the effect as it did the first.”
At the box office, The Artist has made a worldwide total of $114,249,836. Hugo managed a total of $165,482,000 although it’s still being shown in most major cinemas worldwide. In comparison, last years Best Motion Picture ‘The Kings Speech’ earned a total of $414,211,100, almost quadruple what The Artist has earned.
The Artist was released to the Western World under different circumstances to the aforementioned. As a silent, black and white film with a relatively unknown French cast it had to rely on merit alone to draw people to the cinemas and has relied largely on its critical success.
Its critics have marveled in the reliance on genuine acting through facial expression and its subtle visual effects rather than its recreation of the past. This suggests that nostalgia is not the only technique charming viewers.
New York Times critic A.O. Scott praised the film for its subtle homage of the past rather than it being a complete recreation. He described it as being “like a reconstituted classic roadster with a GPS device and a hybrid engine.”
It’s clear that the intention of director Michel Hazanavicius was to evoke a certain nostalgia for ‘old’ Hollywood.
Speaking of the film in press rounds, the stated that it is “a very old Hollywood cliche,” going on to cite that as “one of the charms of the movie.”
When speaking of the film Hazanavicius uses the word “cliche” several times. These obvious homages seem to help an audience unaware of silent film to resonate with some of the most popular images from classic Hollywood.
Critics have picked up on musical and visual similarities from films like Citizen Kane, Singin In The Rain and A Star Is Born. Hazanavicius suggested this is what makes the film familiar to viewers.
Whether it be nostalgia generating or ‘simple’ to audiences, The Artist is one of the most unusual Academy winners in recent years. Its critical triumphs and box office downfalls reveal a film pushing the boundaries oddly by returning to those set nearly a century ago.
As much as the film is a homage to the past, it also sets a precedent for the future.