The Artist triumphs at the Baftas. Wow.

The Artist (2011)
The Artist (2011)

We are living in strange, glorious times. The Artist, Michel Hazanavicus’s silent billet-doux to Hollywoodland, has officially “swept the board” at the Baftas. Best director, best actor, best original screenplay and best picture all fell to a modern silent film, for the first time, it should go without saying, in Bafta history. The Artist also picked up much-deserved prizes for cinematography, costume and score. It has all made for an unexpectedly emotional night here at Silent London towers.

Why? The Artist isn’t the only modern silent to have been made in recent years. It isn’t even the best. But when you are as passionate about a particular corner of film history as I am, and as the readers of this blog are, it does the heart good to see it in the spotlight, with a trophy in each hand. The air has been punched, a stray tear has been wiped and now a glass of vin blanc has been poured, and raised in honour to the lovely M Hazanavicius. The Artist is a lovely film, and most quibbles I, and other early cinema enthusiasts, have with it, are impossible to untangle from its privileged position as a standard-bearer for the silent era. At some point we have to give it credit for getting into that position in the first place. So congratulations to The Artist – for earning both popularity and critical acclaim and being so damn charming with it.

Martin Scorsese’s Hugo won a brace of awards too: best production design and best sound (ho ho). So I’ll raise another couple of toasts: to cinema pioneer Georges Méliès, and to Martin Scorsese, a masterful director and the world’s greatest living advocate for film preservation. That’s part of the reason he won the biggest award of the night – the Bafta fellowship.

Roll on the Oscars at the end of the month. The silents are coming!

7 thoughts on “The Artist triumphs at the Baftas. Wow.”

  1. Well done for being a silent film standard-bearer and making the world aware of the movies beyond the Artist. It’s just great to see the awards season going in a slightly different directions for a change!

  2. But is it really ‘a standard-bearer for the silent era’? My concern with The Artist is that it recreates the period in a nostalgic, even sentimental manner. Silent film *in the 1920s* wasn’t backward-looking – it was still at the cutting edge of technology. Making historical pastiches now hardly does justice to that legacy.

  3. Yes, I was dizzy with nostalgia for The Artist. I was bleary eyed and I was proud as a mother watching her child grace that mainstream screen, having believed in it and adored it, and advocated it’s talents tirelessly over the years. The nostalgia was there, yes; but it also marked an important milestone for the genre of silent film, whether nostalgic or contemporary. It made mainstream and it swept the floor at awards ceremonies. What is important is that The Artist brought the eyes of the world back to silents. My hope is that the world now realises that both talkies and silents can co-exist; that silent film is a viable modern format for movies, on an equal footing with talkies. They are different, and down to personal preference these days as opposed to silent being the only choice; but I hope that it has opened the mainstream world’s eyes to the power of silents, and for film makers – whether students or experienced professionals – to consider it as an alternative to merely defaulting to dialogue.

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