Cannes Film Festival: Can Harvey Weinstein take a silent movie to the Oscars?

the-artist

Cannes has a bona fide crowd pleaser on its hands this morning as the silent film The Artist screened for the press to terrific response. Harvey Weinstein seemed particularly bullish about the film (which was a last-minute addition to this year’s competition) on Friday as he presented his upcoming slate to international buyers, and now I see why. Funny, sly, touching, nostalgic, and interestingly relevant, The Artist will be a unique presence in this year’s awards race to say the least. Written and directed by French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius (he of those OSS 117 James Bond parodies), the film—about a fading silent film star and his relationship with a new starlet on the rise—stars two actors largely unknown to U.S. audiences (French comedian Jean Dujardin and Argentine/French actress Bérénice Bejo, who happens to be married to Hazanavicius) but does feature appealing supporting performances from familiar faces John Goodman and James Cromwell. It’s shot entirely in black and white and, although it does feature a musical score throughout, it has virtually no organic sound (except for two scenes where that barrier is memorably broken).

The Weinstein Co. (which, of course, was behind this year’s Best Picture winner The King’s Speech) says it will release the film in late Fall 2011, and with the right campaign and critical response (check back here for my colleague Lisa Schwarzbaum’s thoughts on the film, which I’m dying to hear), it could be a strong contender. In a way, I think The Artist will play to the Academy like a foreign entry—and Weinstein was certainly able to use Il Postino and Life is Beautiful to their full awards potential when he was back at Miramax. That the film takes place just before and during the depression gives it an extra layer of contemporary meaning as well. Particularly if the Hollywood Foreign Press Association deems it a comedy, it could score multiple major-category nominations at the Golden Globes, in which case it would be off and running for the rest of the season. And I’d venture that Oscar voters of all ages will find the film as delightful as this morning’s audience did. If this is the kind of film for which the Academy’s expanded Best Picture category can now make room, then I’d be all for it.

Dave on Twitter: @davekarger

Comments (38 total) Add your comment
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  • Kal

    As a fan of silent film I’m very interested in seeing this. I’ll have to keep it in mind.

    • Color Me Impressed

      When I clicked play on the trailer I was not expecting this…this looks absolutely amazing! I need to see it now

  • m1

    He’s Weinstein. Of course he can.

    • TorontoTom

      I think Harvey’s got the early buzz as People’s Sexiest Man Alive this year…

  • milo

    of course he can!i just saw the trailer and it looks very promising even John Goodman is in it.

  • Le HIROSHI

    The music sounds good and fit a la Charleston(?).

    *

    But since it’s a silent movie, (1) it should not count in the Foreign Language category(?) for the Oscar. So (2) how could you compete with the other English-speaking movies in the HOLLYWOOD world. Correct me if I’m wrong, but (3) great script (with dialogues) is one of the most critical factors for the Oscar Best Picture nom (Avatar, etc. are an exception, but that’s another story).

    *

    Almost impossible. Just say’n.

    • Duh

      He is saying it is so out there jn terms of regular films that it might be viewed as a beat foreign film contender it is a joke if it was nominated it wouldn’t be for foreign film

    • Clayton

      The Foreign Film category is actually dependent on the country of origin, rather than the language of the film. Thus, Eastwood’s Letters from Iwo Jima was ineligible, but an English-language movie (or silent one) from another country would be eligible in the category.

      • anonymous

        Except that it was mostly filmed in the US.

      • ger

        Sorry Clayton, the film has to have “a predominantly non-English dialogue track”, too.

    • NoCruise

      So in your opinion Mel Brooks’ Silent Movie is a french one, because the only word spoken in it is the ‘Non!’ of the great mime Marcel Marceau?

  • jasmine

    just watched the trailer. i gotta see this!

  • Mae

    Wow! Some of those shots are amazing. I need to keep an eye out for this movie, it looks great.

  • TorontoTom

    What a breath of fresh air! NO big, crash-y special effects. NO green screen tricks. NOT a sequel. CANNOT WAIT TO SEE IT! (How many of the upcoming big summer blockbusters can you say that about?)

    • Sacto1525

      If this movie lives up to the promises, the critical reaction by the critics here in the USA is going to be HUGELY positive when it comes on in theaters this fall.

      The movie screams “Oscar bait,” but in this case this is a positive, to say the least.

  • K

    Looks like a great callback to the golden age of Hollywood. Other films have tried like “The Good German” and failed terribly. I am definately looking forward to this!

  • emma Olands

    these producers have guts a silent movie in black and white! strong buzz in cannes The Weinsteins must be pleased!

  • Shawn

    This reminds me a great deal of Singing in The Rain, set in the same era, about 20’s silent film stars and the lead actor even looks a great deal like Gene Kelly. It seems a little schticky to have filmed this as a silent. Can’t see it killing at the boxoffice, though it might attract an older audience – who will wait to see it on dvd.

    • wg

      Definitely reminds me of Singing in the Rain, but it looks really good. Maybe just because it’s wonderful to see people in classy dress for a change on screen.

  • merin

    strong contender for the palme d’or or the grand prix

  • Trixie

    AMAZING TRAILER!!!!!!!

    • Kate

      Second that!

  • Ricky

    Jean Dujardin should be a huge movie star and he needs to make more OSS 117 movies. Hopefully this film will lead to both.

    • Lala

      Am I the only one who DESPISES those movies?

      • Wheezer

        Apparently so.
        Go watch Harry Potter or something.

  • Sanjay

    Looks utterly charming. Can’t wait to see it.

  • talkin’

    Great trailer for sure but would I want to watch the whole movie? Dunno.

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