Release Date: 2011
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Why I picked this: Because “Best Picture”
It’s designed to be like an old-fashioned silent movie, but the movie appears self aware and was crafted with a mindset that this is a modern silent film. While it certainly feels like a silent movie, this movie goes beyond a mere imitation and becomes something special and unique on its own. This was clear to me near the beginning where we see a silenced movie audience applaud. Every artistic and cinematic decision was made to provoke some thought, some reaction, something to be noticed. It harkens back to the time when actors had only their gestures and facial expressions to convey emotion, and the actors, particularly Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo, do a splendid job; however, there is more to this movie than the acting. Not being able to tell the story with spoken dialogue, besides with the occasional use of intertitles, each shot is dense with detail that tell the audience something; the shots are much better composed than those of the old movies it pays tribute to; the limitations and rules of a silent film are played around with in very clever ways. The plot is simple, following a silent film actor at his lowest point in his life and career after the rise of “talkies” and the Great Depression. Simple, but enhanced by the clever tricks the director makes with the silent film formula. The musical score helps to enhance the films story and visuals, but like the visuals, the music is also cleverly played around with to make this movie a unique experience. Under the simple story is an interesting theme about adaptation, as Dujardin’s character George Valentin refuses to adapt to talking pictures. It is interesting because this tale is told in a “dead” style.
This is a very smart film, and anyone with an appreciation to detail or a love for old-fashioned silent films will truly appreciate this.