Will a silent movie win an Oscar?

Dr Jonathan Ervine, an academic at the School of Modern Languages is an expert in French film and cinema. Here he shares his views on the Oscar nominated film, The Artist.

“French cinema has often been seen as very different to that of Hollywood, and has at times sought to define itself in opposition to American cinema. However, the Oscar-nominated film The Artist is one of many works which demonstrate France’s frequent fascination with American cinema and film-makers. This is a trend which is evident in the works of directors as diverse as Jean Renoir, Jean-Luc Godard and Luc Besson.”

“Michel Hazanavicius’s black and white silent film The Artist has been re-released in France following its ten Oscar nominations after having originally come out on French screens in October 2011. In Paris, posters bill it as ‘the film that is enchanting America’ and many screenings are still well-attended.”

“The way in which the fictional story is based around an American silent film actor named George Valentin who struggles to come to terms with the arrival of ‘talkies’ has parallels with an important part of French cinema history. The arrival of sound cinema created a major challenge for French cinema at a time when it had a major global presence. If The Artist is to win the coveted Best Picture award, it too faces a major challenge. The only time that a silent film has previously won the Best Picture award was in 1929, the year of the first ever Academy Awards ceremony. However, The Artist’s recent success at the Golden Globes and the BAFTAS suggest that this year’s Academy Awards could be a night to remember for French cinema.”

Publication date: 22 February 2012