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The film is silent, black and white, and is a masterpiece. It is the best film of 2011 and quite frankly, one of the best I’ve seen in my life.
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine a silent film would be made and that it would attract so much mainstream interest. If it wins on Oscar night it will be the first since 1929 when Wings took home Best Picture at the ceremony’s inception.
The film takes begins in the late twenties during the rise of talkies and the end of the silent film era and one of it’s greatest stars; George Valentin played by Jean Dujardin. The plot is reminiscent of Singing in the Rain with the transition to talkies, and A Star is Born, with the rise and fall of the two main characters. And yet- it is so much more. The love story is moving, the performances are captivating, the music is mesmerizing, and the cinematography is stunning.
The film is also a love letter to the Old Hollywood I love. Many historical Hollywood locations were used including:
Ebell Theatre | 743 S. Lucerne Blvd.
Kinograph’s office was filmed in the hall where Judy Garland was “discovered” in 1934.
Orpheum Theatre | 842 S. Broadway
The premiere was shot in the 1926 venue.
Los Angeles Theatre | 615 S. Broadway
Peppy’s film plays in the same theatre where Chaplin’s City Lights premiered in 1931.
Bradbury Building | 304 S. Broadway
Peppy meets George on a Blade Runner stairway.
Mary Pickford Residence | 56 Fremont Place
Peppy lives in star’s Hancock Park house.
RED Studios | 846 N Cahuenga Blvd
Kinograph studio scenes where shot at the studio that began as Metro Lot #3 in 1915.
The silent era’s biggest stars were used as inspiration for the characters. Berenice Bejo read Gloria Swanson’s biography to research her role saying, “To me, she represents the American way of life.” She also studied the performance styles of Joan Crawford and the dancing of Ginger Rogers. John Goodman plays a cigar-chomping studio boss resembling Cecil B. DeMille. Jean Dujardin based his character on Douglas Fairbanks saying Valentin “is like Douglas Fairbanks, with a Gene Kelly smile” (Hollywood Reporter, December 21, 2011).
Although Fairbanks was the model for George Valentin, Dujardin says it is Chaplin who set the standard for the transition from silents to talkies. “Chaplin was a genius. He was one of the few who knew how to make the bridge from silent movies to talkies. Other silent-movie actors, like John Gilbert, who had a very high voice, were immediately forgotten. It was very brutal” (WSJ, December, 16, 2011).
In the age of 3D blockbusters, it’s easy to forget the magic of the silent screen. Silent films are universal in language and appeal. They transform the audience into active participants. Silence is golden and The Artist is pure brilliance.
Goodman, Lanie. The Wall Street Journal. Silence Is Golden in ‘The Artist, December 16, 2011. Web Access. 2011 December 31.
Timberg, Scott. The Making of The Artist, Hollywood Reporter, December 21, 2011. Web Acess. 2011 December 31.
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