Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Silent films... the Artist(s) !

Fine ! France won 5 Oscars© on february 26th with film « The Artist ». Indeed, this film is quite good. I liked it when it released back in 2011. I thought that the idea of making a silent film was an excellent one. A very few people know about silent movies, apart from the basic : Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, etc. A very few people really watched silent films for the fun of it. I did and still do. I like that cinema.
So, watching at “The Artist” triumph is a bit exciting. Nevertheless, I don’t like this hysteria around the main actor. He is rather brilliant in Hazanavicius’ film but, in France, he is well-known for his “second  humor degree” films and was in a daily tv soap about a couple. It was a hit too but I never liked it. So, each time I went to the cinema and saw a film with Jean Dujardin (whom I am speaking of), I never thought that he could have been a serious actor and an Oscars© winner ! The fact that he won a prize in Cannes Festival made me think that an American producer would be smart enough to promote it to the States. That’s what Weinstein Company did. Lucky them ! Of course, winning an award for a performance in A film can be appreciated but I am quite disappointed because suddenly everyone is “Dujardin” fan. I appreciate his acting in “The Artist” but I still don’t fancy the actor.
Anyhow, congratulations to the entire crew of “The Artist” to make people recognize that dialogues are not the only purpose in a film !
Silent movies have many interests for me. I still don’t know when I have watched my first one, but it was probably with my grandfather on my father’s side. He & I were used to watch at movies a lot when I was a kid. Silent films almost always featured music (sometimes live, with a pianist). The first public projection of the Lumière Brothers in 1895 featured a pianist playing live music indeed.
I truly liked some silent films such as The Birth of a Nation (D.W. Griffith, 1915), Ben Hur (1925), Way Down East (1920), The Gold Rush (1925), The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921), The Circus (1928), Sherlock Jr (1924), and Seven Chances (1925). They are basic and the most popular furthermore they are still remarkable.
Georges Méliès used the early “trick” (such as hand-tinted)  for fantasy films in Europe and in “Annabelle Serpentine Dance” (1894), the young dancer Annabelle Whitford was wearing white veils that change colors as she dances. It was quite revolutionary and amazing.
The utilization of Sepia-tinted was also a main trick. For instance, in “Broken Blossoms” (1919), featuring the stars Lilian Gish & (handsome) Richard Barthelmess, is an exemple of sepia-tinted print and gave the images a so lovely reflection. I truly like Sepia in photography.
Apart from colors, music was also important in silent films. Not only had the pianist sitting in the theatre to entertain the audience, but the music added within the film. I guess that we are not used to that anymore. Sounds are too noisy nowadays in cinema. Sometimes, music hides the dialogues, and ruins the scene.
I truly think that somehow silent scenes (or with few words involved) are the most magnificent ! A look, a sign or whisper is sufficient to share a feeling or an emotion. The silent actors were outrageous in their acting, no doubt about that, but their feelings in pantomime were all stunning.  
Just have a look at “Way Down East” and “Broken Blossoms” (especially final scene) to comprehend how silent films are major into cinema, and not only because in the story of Cinema.