After three Golden Globes, the French romantic-drama, The Artist (2011), swept the BAFTA, the British equivalent of the Oscars, picking up seven awards, including Best Film, Best Director and Best Actor (Jean Dujardin). The film is now a frontrunner for the Oscars with 10 nominations.
Says the delighted director, Michel Hazanavicius, “The competition is tough at the Academy and for the moment I’m just happy with all the nominations we’ve received. This is the first time a French movie has bagged so many nominations, it will be great if we win.”
Interestingly, Berenice Bojo, who’s in the running for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor (Female) for her portrayal of Peppy Miller, is Michel’s wife and the mother of his two children. “I’m so proud of her. Both Jean and she have done a great job. It’ll be a privilege to share this journey with her,” he says.
The film premiered on May 15, 2011, in competition at the Cannes Film Festival, opening in the US on November 25 and subsequently in UK. At Liverpool’s Odeon cinema, some people stormed out of the theatre after they realised that the film was not just in black-and-white but had little sound apart from the music.
Ushers then made their way down the aisle alerting the rest that it was a largely silent movie. A spokesperson admitted that the cinema was ready to offer a refund if ‘guests’ raised concern with a member of the staff within 10 minutes of the film starting. Quiz Michel on this and he says, “Yeah, I have heard about this but it’s not as if everyone wanted their money back. Only three people asked for a refund,” he says quite dismissively.
The film releases in India on February 24 and he’s hoping it will do well here too. “India is one of the greatest countries for cinema in the world. Your films have a strong identity of their own and can be traced back to the silent era too. It’ll be great for me if Indians enjoy my movie,” says Michel.
The film opens in the Hollywood of 1927 and revolves around George Valentin, the star of the silent era, whose reign is cut short by the dancing girl whose career he launched and whose ‘talkie’ left him bankrupt. Desperate and drunk, Valentin attempts suicide but is saved by Peppy who then uses her star power to get him a musical opposite her. Sound finally comes in, as Miller and Valentin complete a dance and Zimmer calls, “Cut! Perfect. Beautiful! Could you give me one more?” And Valentin, finally gets a line of dialogue, as in strongly accented English he replies, “With pleasure.”
On June 17, 1976, Silent Movie, co-written, directed by and starring Mel Brookes opened in the theatres. Except for one audible line spoken by noted mime artiste Marcel Marceau and numerous sound effects, the film was voiceless, a parody on the silent slapstick comedies of Charlie Chaplin, Mack Sennett and Buster Keaton. “I’ve seen it,” says Michel. “And around a week ago, I was invited to lunch with six-seven people and Mel Brookes. It was one of the greatest moments of my life.”
After having left us speechless with The Artist will Michel’s next film be silent too? He laughs, “No, it will be in colour and a talkie but I don’t knew yet what it will be.”
The Kim Novak controversyOn 9 January, 2012, Hollywood actor Kim Novak stated that Ludovic Bource had committed a “rape” by incorporating a portion of Bernard Herrmann’s score from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 film Vertigo to provide more drama. “It is morally wrong for the artistry of our industry to use and abuse famous pieces of work to gain attention and applause for other than what they were intended. Shame on them!” she raged in an interview to Variety magazine.
Asserting that his film was made as a love letter to cinema, Michel pointed out that Herrmann’s music has been used in other films in the past. Insisting that directors did it all the time, he says, “We paid for the rights to the love theme and did everything right. I don’t know why she is so upset. I don’t think we did anything wrong. It was a wonderful tribute.”