I won’t talk! I won’t say a word!
Perhaps one of the most entertaining surprises in recent memory, this is Michel Hazanavicius’ (mostly) silent film The Artist (2011, France). An unlikely film among unlikely films, the story is rather familiar: a marquee silent film actor (Jean Dujardin) finds himself pushed to the wayside during the advent of talkies, a trend launching a maturing, young actress (Bérénice Bejo) into Hollywood stardom.
It is the film all classic film buffs working in Hollwyood wanted to make but never got the chance. And though it did not begin a new, 21st century trend in revivalist silent films, one has to credit Hazanavicius, his cast, and producer Thomas Langmann for having the bravery to undertake such a rather unprecedented effort.
Oscar would reward such bravery, nominating The Artist ten times, winning five of those Academy Award nominations: for Costume Design (Mark Bridges), Ludovic Bource’s gorgeous Original Score, Actor (Dujardin), Director, and for Best Picture. The Artist would be the first silent film to win Best Picture since Wings (1927), the first Best Picture shot in a 4:3 screen aspect ratio since Marty (1955), the first completely black-and-white Best Picture since The Apartment (1960), and - perhaps most importantly - the first Best Picture winner not emanating from the United States or Great Britain.