Charles Chaplin continued making silent films into the 1930s, and other filmmakers occasionally have tried it, notably Mel Brooks with his 1976 comedy "Silent Movie." But a feature-length silent film has not competed for best picture since the late 1920s, when "Wings" and "Sunrise" took the top honors at the very first Oscars and the acting prizes went to performers in silent films, Emil Jannings and Janet Gaynor.
Even with an over-abundance of strong performances for the upcoming Oscars, "The Artist" might have acting prospects, too. Bejo's Peppy is a charming spitfire, while Dujardin won the best-actor prize at Cannes for "The Artist," a role that allowed him to emulate some of his early film heroes.
"There were lots of influences I took from, for example, Gene Kelly or someone like Douglas Fairbanks," Dujardin said. "Also, what I have to offer is very instinctual. I just let it go. ... Almost a fantasy, like imagining how would I be if I was kind of a big star, a little infatuated with myself at the end of the '20s, who's kind of extremely enthusiastic and at the same time happy. At the same time, a little naive. There's also a slight schizophrenic side to him."
"The Artist" arrives during a holiday crush of comedies, action flicks, family films and other Hollywood blockbusters that have colossal advertising budgets behind them.
Hazanavicius hopes audiences come out for his quaint little silent film, but it's now up to fans to do the talking and persuade other people to turn up.
"It's not really my problem. I made the movie I wanted to see, and now I've seen it and I'm happy with it. If people want to come, they will come. If they won't, I can't go in the house of everybody and say, 'You, go to see a black-and-white silent movie!' I'm not Stalin. It's a free country," Hazanavicius said.
"I'm sure that people are scared. Everybody was scared from the very beginning. But they have to trust themselves, and they will enjoy it, if they come."
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