In "The Artist," silence is golden

Fri Nov 25, 2011 1:26pm EST
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By Jordan Riefe

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actor Jean Dujardin won this year's best actor award at the Cannes film festival for playing a man who hardly says a word, but not because his character couldn't speak. In fact, he says quite a lot.

Dujardin stars in "The Artist," a silent movie made more than 80 years after those films gave way to "talkies," and the movie has Hollywood buzzing with Oscar talk. Directed by Frenchman Michel Hazanavicius, it tells of a silent film star (Dujardin) whose career is cut short by the advent of sound.

"People think silent movies are intellectual," Hazanavicius told Reuters about his old-is-new-again creation. "It's just the opposite. It's really sensual. Instead, talking movies use dialogue in an intellectual way to tell stories."

In "The Artist," Dujardin plays George Valentin, a pompous leading man in 1920's Hollywood. French actress Berenice Bejo plays Peppy Miller, an ingenue looking for a big break.

The pair meet and fall in love, but the advent of talkies brings divergent fortunes. Valentin's career implodes, while the singing and dancing Miller rockets to stardom.

"The Artist" is, at its heart, a rather simple tale of personal redemption and love, but making a silent movie in these modern days of action, special effects and 3D was anything but easy.

"Everybody tells you that it's not do-able because nobody wants to see a silent movie," he said. "The first person I had to convince was myself."

Giving Hazanavicius and his investors confidence was his enthusiasm for the project and his success with a pair of spy spoofs, "OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies" and "OSS 117: Lost in Rio." Those movies mimicked early James Bond such as 1962's "Dr. No," and starred Dujardin in the lead role.   Continued...