The silent film that could

Elana katz

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The last time a silent film won Best Picture at the Academy Awards was coincidentally the only time a silent film won. The film was “Wings”, the year was 1929, and it was the very first Academy Awards. 83 years later, in an era where 3-D is ordinary and special effects are basically mandatory, the current front runner for the Best Picture title happens to be a silent film. Stripped of explosions, complicated plot points, color, and spoken words, “The Artist” is a film lover’s breath of fresh air.

When comes down to it, the plot is nothing new or spectacular: George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a silent film star who helps discover a young actress, Pippy Miller (Berenice Bejo). When sound makes its way onto the screen, Pippy rises to fame as George suddenly finds himself as a washed up silent actor whom no one has any interest anymore. The beauty of “The Artist” is that the film is not actually about the story at all. The film is not about George and Pippy. It’s not about what happens to an actor when they become irrelevant. It’s not even about human connection. Instead, it is simply about resurrecting a long forgotten way of filmmaking and celebrating what makes the film industry magical.

Watching “The Artist”, the viewer is instantly transported to simpler times, where seeing any movie at all was an excitement in itself. Everything about the film is beautiful-from the swoon-worthy costumes to the delightful score, and to the actors who fully embody the glamour and grace that it took to be a silent film star. The fact that the lead roles are played by French actors virtually unknown in the U.S. make it even easier to be convinced of their silent star power. The few American roles are played with gusto by actors like John Goodman and James Cromwell.

However, the true star of the film is a dog named Uggie. The sweet Jack Russell Terrier steals every scene he’s in and has inspired Twitter campaigns to give him an Oscar nomination.

What’s so great about making a silent film in 2011 or 2012 is that modern technology can still be utilized. The picture is crystal clear, the shots are much more complex and interesting, and dream sequences can play the sounds of footsteps or use effects to project a lonely man’s drunken delusions.

Walking out of the theater, it is difficult not to be happy. It’s truly good-hearted film that is easy to connect to. Mostly, however, the happiness comes for joy for the film itself. The fact that a silent film can find success in today’s new media is remarkable. Just as society feels the need to own the newest, greatest things, it’s comforting that there can still be value in nostalgia.





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