Monday, May 23, 2011

Movie Preview: "The Artist" — New Silent Film Rocks Cannes Festival

[post 142]  

French directors Pierre Etaix and Jacques Tati made solid reputations for themselves creating modern-era silent-style movies four and more decades after the dawn of the talkies.  Now another French director, Michel Hazanavicius (OSS 117) has followed in their footsteps with The Artist, a silent, black-and-white movie about the transition from the silent era to sound.  It was announced yesterday that Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life had won the Palme d'Or, the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival, but according to several reports The Artist gave it a real run for its money.

Hélas, for some stupid reason I am not currently on the French Riviera so I haven't seen the film yet, but here's a trailer and a few (rave) reviews.


"The Artist" manages the seemingly impossible: It's a new silent film that pays thoughtful tribute to the traditions of the past while creating great fun for modern audiences. Which is just what French director Michel Hazanavicius had in mind. 

"A silent film is a very special experience. … It's not intellectual, it's emotional. You take it in the way you take in music," Hazanavicius explains, tired but still engaging at the end of a day spent coping with a deluge of media requests. "There are times when language reduces communication, when you feel you are losing something when you start talking."
[Read the whole review here.]


Michel Hazanavicius's The Artist, added to the Cannes competition at the last minute, is both a surefire crowd pleaser and a magnificent piece of film-making. Whatever else, this is also surely the most enjoyable contender for the Palme d'Or this year.

It's a silent movie set in the Hollywood of the late 1920s. The story of a Douglas Fairbanks-like movie star (Jean Dujardin) fallen on hard times, it evokes memories of everything from A Star Is Born to Citizen Kane, from Scott Fitzgerald's Pat Hobby Stories to Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon and even Charlie Chaplin's Limelight. French director Hazanavicius (best known for spy spoof OSS 117) isn't the first film-maker in recent years to make a silent movie but he is doing it on a far grander scale than any of his predecessors.
[Read the whole review here.]


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 save 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.
[Read the whole review here.]


It is a relief to turn to the great movies, of which there were a fair few. French director Michel Hazanavicius's The Artist is my favourite, by a whisker, of the competition films. It's a piece about Hollywood's silent black-and-white age, and is itself silent and in black-and-white. That may sound rather mannered and plenty of people out here, particularly the American critics – who might take a rather coolly proprietorial attitude to this subject – thought it a pleasant pastiche and nothing more. Actually, it is a lovely film with a sublime and swooningly romantic story, taking its inspiration from Singin' in the Rain, from Welles and from Lang. I can't wait for the film to come to Britain so I can see it again.
[Read the whole review here.]

Update (5-29-11):  I just watched Hazanavicius's OSS 117 on Netflix Instant Play. Not much physical comedy, but pretty funny.  It's a spy spoof, but with more mature social and political satire than, for example, the Naked Gun movies.

1 comment:

jimmoore said...

The silent film THE ARTIST is expected to be released in the USA late November 2011.
Looking forward to seeing it!