Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Artist

2011 - Dir: Michael Hazanavicius - 1 hours 40 minutes
Shown at The FeckenOdeon on 24th November, 2012

Now this is a turn up for the books - a successful silent film released 86 years after the genre was all but wiped out by Al Jolson. Not only that - a French silent film to boot! Some amusement may be had by picturing the scene in Hollywood offices when someone had to tell the studio bosses that the film couldn’t be re-made in American… because it had no dialogue. If only Theda Bara had lived to see the day!
It’s ironic that, just at the time when the first sound films were crackling their way into existence, the silent film was reaching its technical and artistic peak. In fact, because of the restrictions imposed by the cumbersome recording equipment, it could be said that film technique was set back 20 years by the addition of spoken dialogue. "The Artist" offers a chance to enjoy what might have been - a technically accomplished, well acted film that shows exactly what is possible without microphones. In fact it really only proves what the best directors and editors have believed for eons - that every film should be able to tell its story without dialogue. Try watching some of the classics without the sound and you’ll see what they were getting at (not much point with The Sound of Music but there are exceptions to every rule).
  • The role of Jack the dog was actually played by three matching Jack Russell Terriers: Uggie, Dash and Dude, although The lead dog Uggie did the majority of scenes. All three dogs were "re-coloured" before the filming began to make them look more alike.
  • There are no ‘zoom’ shots in the film because zoom lenses did not exist in the silent era. The film was made in black and white and in the "square" screen shape of the original silent films.
  • UK cinemas reported outraged complaints from audiences because of this - and because "there’s something wrong with the sound". The fine orchestral score is played by the Brussels Philharmonic.
  • This was the first ever Academy Award Best Picture Oscar winner which was solely produced by a non-English-speaking country. The film was predominantly financed by France with some money coming from Belgium.

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