By Haajar Boutafi
By Haajar Boutafi
Morocco World News
Fez, Morocco, May1st, 2012
You could have guessed it. The movie that many French people expected to see in cinemas was mainly the typical movie they are accustomed to seeing: a realistic plot that often characterizes the French cinematic art, existential themes that unveil the concerns and expectations of a conservative society, improvised dialogues, rapid changes of colorful scenes marking the end of an era of silence and the beginning of an rra of Speech and high quality 3D effects.
So moviegoers walked to the box office to purchase their movie ticket, walked through the long, dark hall inside the theater on their way to their seats expecting that what would lay behind the big screen would be like the merchant of Venice, Gone With The Wind or The Godfather.
But it was silent. There was music, actors and actresses moving around mimicing gestures while title cards flashed for any words that needed to be put in writing. They had come to see a black and white silent movie entitled ‘The Artist.’
‘The Artist’ describes the career life of George Valentin, a French star, and an icon of the French silent movies of 1927. As he was celebrating the premiere of his new movie, he was accidently stuck by images of a strange girl whom the media had made a fuss about publishing her picture on the first page with a headline ‘Who’s That Girl?’
The picture of her was a turning point in her life as it encouraged her to pursue a career in acting. Discovered suddenly by Valentin, he decided she should be his dancing partner in his next movie.
Amazed at the opportunity, she fell in love with her co-actor as they were a perfect match in the movie. When that girl became the famous ‘Peppy Miller,’ it was already the beginning of the widespread of sound movies. The surprise came with the bankruptcy of Valentin and the downfall of his new self-produced movie. Shocked, empty handed and left alone, he put fire to film canisters that held his productions throughout the years. While he tried to commit suicide, his little dog named Uggie rescued him by fetching a nearby policeman.
While he recuperated in the hospital, Peppy Miller visited and asked that he be relocated to her house to be medically treatment. In her house, he found out that Peppy had bought his lost props from his past films, making him once again infuriated.
From her side, Peppy while securing a place for him in her next production, she went back home with her good news. When she discovered his plan, she followed him to rescue him as she discovered her love for him again. The story ends up with their performing together in a new hit production.
Indeed it sheds light on some circumstances that happened at a certain time with the introduction of sound in dialogues in movies. Between the years 1894 and 1929, the silent cinema was born and flourished, marking its presence with the most legendary movies by the British Charlie Chaplin and the French Max Linder.
However, by the end of 1929 and with the introduction of cinematic sounds, many silent actors and actresses were uncomfortable at the effect of their voices sounds on their audiences. More than that, assuming already the potential favor of sound movies over silent ones, many of the acting crew of the silent era preferred to divorce their careers and retire.
Moreover, the movie introduces us to the issue of fame – which most famous people suffer from. The moment they step out of their studios, they are in complete depression, weighing their happiness only within their audiences and not elsewhere. I quote from Dante Aleghieri the following: ‘worldly fame is but a breath of wind that blows now this way, and now that, and changes name as it changes direction’.
By excellent means, the movie succeeded in attracting the attention of a new audience starving for the rebirth of the seventh art of 20s and the 30s. Thus, competing with the best of the American movies and winning five Oscars for the first time in the history of the French movies participated in the Oscar ceremony.