Sunday, November 13, 2011

Silence is Golden: Spotlight on The Artist

Like Scotch, silent films for many are an acquired taste. It's a genre from a bygone era where the success of the film depended upon a great film score and believable performances as body language, expression and the ability not to overact is crucial. And like an Avedon portrait, the settings and costumes often look better in black and white.

Enter The Weinstein Company's latest entry in the genre, The Artist.

The Artist is the story of silent movie star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) and the advent of the "talkies" in 1927 that marks the proverbial death knell for his career. His life intertwines with the young ingenue Peppy Miller (Bernice Bejo and wife of the film's director Michael Havanavicus) who plays a dancer hell bent on stardom. The French romance film is a great story of the rise and decline of stardom in early Hollywood and won Dujardin the Best Actor Award at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. (Even the Jack Russell terrier Uggy won the Palm Dog Award for best canine performance!). Viewers will also recognize actors John Goodman, Malcolm McDowell, James Cromwell, and Penelope Ann Miller in supporting roles.

Bernice Bejo

Jean Dujardin

The actors at the Cannes Film Festival

Havanavicus studied silent films of the twenties and thought the genre would make a great movie, as they are tailor made for melodramas. He also wrote the screenplay in four months, researching archival photographs and drawing inspiration from the careers and films of actors Douglas Fairbanks, Greta Garbo. Gloria Swanson and Joan Crawford. It's a gutsy gamble and from the glowing reviews so far, it looks like one that will pay off.

Costume designer Mark Bridges dressed the actors and up to 200 extras in vintage costumes, both real and copies. Milliners were called upon to re-block and dust off vintage hats that spent decades in hatboxes. Vintage buffs will note that the garments were found at an array of Hollywood costume shops such as the Motion Picture Costume CompanyWestern Costume Company and Palace Costume Company.

Penelope Ann Miller

Bejo with Malcolm McDowell as the butler
There are literally generations who have never seen a silent film and hope they give this one a chance. And look at it this way, at least you won't have to worry about missing a line of dialogue due to the inconsiderate jerks talking and chomping on popcorn behind you.

The film opens in the U.S. on November 20th and internationally through December (it is already in theaters in France).

Join me on Tuesday, November 15th when I am a guest on Interior Design Chat. I will be taking questions on what design in films and television (and anything else you would like to ask!) Click the link to their website for details.

Photo Credits: The Weinstein Company


  1. the film is already open in France and is amazing!
    In France, Jean Dujardin is a very famous actor and this role is one of the best in his career!
    This movie is a big success here, both for critics and public, so i hope The U.S will love it too!

  2. Ludivine -Emilie,

    I can't wait to see it! The trailer looks incredible and what a unique idea for a present day film. I hope US audiences will give it a chance.

  3. Cathy - thanks for giving us the sneak peak at stills from "The Artist." It should do very well here in the U.S., in fact the Oscar buzz has it as a Best Picture nominee, and even as favored to win.

    Christian (Silver Screen Modiste)

  4. Hey Christian,

    How are you == yes it will be interesting to see how American audiences receive this picture. The trailer is wonderful. Not sure that a steady diet of silents will work but one is good!