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HindustanTimes Sat,23 Aug 2014

After 80 years, silent film The Artist screams

Gautaman Bhaskaran, Hindustan Times  Chennai, January 25, 2012
First Published: 15:48 IST(25/1/2012) | Last Updated: 20:02 IST(25/1/2012)

When Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist won 10 Academy nods, it became the first black-and-white silent or largely silent film in 80 years to have won such recognition.

The French movie, described as a love letter to Hollywood’s Golden Age, got nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor (Jean Dujardin) and so on.

The nominations for the Oscars came on January 24.

Ever since The Artist made its debut at Cannes last year, it has been drawing acclaim and trophies, and this is what I wrote about it from the Festival in Hindustan Times:

“After watching Shekhar Kapoor’s Bollywood: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told, my faith in cinema, and in the selections at the Cannes Film Festival, now on, was beginning to take a beating. That is when I saw The Artist. Helmed indeed artistically by Michel Hazanavicius, the black and white film is the most enjoyable one that I have seen till now. It certainly restored my faith in the medium as well as the Cannes selectors.

“The Artist is a charming, old world love story that most marvellously weaves within it the silent era in films, and how finally when cinema got its voice, so many great stars lost theirs. Men really handsome and women extraordinarily beautiful were found unsuitable for the talkie, because their voices were either too screechy or rough. Or, their diction and style of delivering lines was just not up to the mark.

“One of the celebrated stars of the silent movies is George Valentine, portrayed elegantly by Jean Dujardin, who goes through the whole gamut of emotions from the exhilaration he experiences as a big-time actor in the silent days to the disappointment, when the Hollywood studio bosses reject him as sound comes on the screen”.

The work moves you with a story that dramatically and yet quietly shows how sound intersected with silence, how stars from one era fell and new ones rose, and how tears flowed with not a sound till cinema found its voice in music and mirth.

The arrival of sound was extremely joyous, but as masters of the medium have said that if it is not used with prudence and imagination, it ends up as noise. As one director quipped, silence today is a beautiful hyphen between two sounds!

Maybe, the voting members of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have begun to miss the sound of silence.

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