When I first saw the trailers for “The Artist“, shortly after it’s premier at the Cannes Film Festival that would lead to Jean Dujardin’s Best Actor win at the prestigious art festival, I was not impressed. Silly folly, I thought. Reductive (Thanks, Madonna). Wasted Inspiration. How could this “NEW” silent film set in th 20s really make a splash? There was no way, in my mind, that the audiences of 2011 would really appreciate the novelty…but surprisingly, they did!
Don’t know what it is about this one (as I’m still stubbornly NOT seeing it) that really taps a chord with everyone these days, but one thing is certain we have a hit on our hands! Picking up seven wins at the British Academy Awards last night, the film is continuing it’s unbeatable winning streak all the way to the Oscars.
Granted, the recreation of the 1920s looks great (especially costumes by first-time Academy Award nominee Mark Bridges, who painstakingly recreated designs from the 20s), not to mention Du Jardin’s charisma and winning smile, but there seems to be something so defeatist about watching a silent film made in 2012.
Why do I need to see this? I have seen many silent films, some of which are the most impressive pieces of film making, or dare I say ART, I’ve ever seen: “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (1920), “Birth of a Nation”(1915) , “Intolerance”(1916), “The Gold Rush”(1925), “Metropolis”(1927), “Voyage to the Moon” (1902), and “Pandora’s Box” (1929) are all some of the most important films ever made, as well as full of some of the most visually arresting images of all time.
All these films were made before sound became an unstoppable force in making movies. Before this time, the power of image and word, and the novelty of the moving image was enough to begin a revolution that would become Hollywood. And don’t think that because these films were made without sound that they are PG fair, because most silent classics are full of adultery, scandal, ghosts, vampires, drugs, sex, violence, and witches- all the things we love at The Eye of Faith, minus the rock n’ roll!
Watching the films of that time are magical in itself, as it’s probablly the closest any of us could ever get to time travel in our lifetime. It’s fascinating getting lost in Louise Miller’s beautiful bow lips, or catching Valentino’s devilish gaze- these celluloid dreams are the closest thing we have to these faded idols of yesteryear and their long lonst lost time. Having been made on film, we are getting a literal imprint of a moment in time playing out before our eyes. Absolute magic!
Back in those days, they didn’t have any of the technology we have today to make movies- all you had was a team full of people and a whole lot of passion to try to tell your story. Even “The Artist” couldn’t escape from having the shoot the film first in Colour, to then digitally manipulate the film to the lauded black and white photogrpahy being praised today.
Back in the 1920s, there is no way they would have shot a film only to have to redo it completely somewhere else; if time meant money now, time really meant money in those days- but today in 2012, I’m afraid that time for these jewels only means edging closer and closer to obscurity.
Ultimately, it’s about love for movies in general. I cannot fault director Michel Hazanavicius’ vision, bringing his ode to Silent Era to the masses, and hopefully with it’s growing popularity the film can also bring some love to the real classics of the 1910s and 1920s. However, I can’t help but think “The Artist” may even further dampened our view of the true days of Hollywood Babylon. Reductive.
Many people, like myself, see all the promos for “The Artist” and can’t see past the gimmick of it all. (I mean, REALLY?!!) Hopefully this doesn’t taint the idea of watching a real classic- seeing as you can watch a “NEW” one. Or maybe I’m being much too cynical and everything is jolly! It’s great to see so much love for the past, in general though. Perhaps simply, the time of nostalgia has really struck.
Throughout the years, silent films have provided an endless source of inspiration. Luckily, many silent films are being restored and archived so future generations can enjoy the magic of the past. Watching a silent film, you can almost feel lucky, as if somehow you have found a hidden doorway to the past, and luckily you can stay there (at least for an hour or two).
Lest we forget from whence we came, and enjoy a piece of the puzzle today!
We’ve included a scene from 1928’s “The Laughing Man” (a precursor to Batman’s iconic villain The Joker) for your viewing pleasure.
[And if you have a lot of time on your hand OpenFlix on Youtube has a ton of Full Length classic films for Free including the 1922 Swedish Documentary HAXAN on the History of Witchcraft!!! Silent and Spooky. Click Here.]
Now you have a good trajectory. So, have fun!!!