Alexander Film Works

The Sounds of Silence…

In Film and Related, Just Because..., Roughly About Films on July 11, 2012 at 5:57 pm

I cannot talk, I cannot sing, Nor screech, nor moan, nor anything. Possessing all these fatal strictures, What chance have I in talking pictures?

This was a bit of rhyme flitting about Hollywood and environs at the time of transition between silents and talkies.  It summed up many of the attitudes of established silent actors… their voices didn’t record properly on the primitive systems of the time, or someone in the “front office” sabotaged how someone sounded to kill their career (rumored of Louis B. Mayer doing to John Gilbert), or the actor had an accent that was either too thick to be readily understood or didn’t match their established “character” on-screen (Chaplin’s “everyman”, portrayed as a person in the lower class of America, had a distinct English accent – not a Cockney drawl (I’m still looking for an adequate word to describe the accent), but enough to dispel any “audience identification” with the Little Tramp, at least in the eyes of the releasing companies.  (Chaplin didn’t release a part-talking picture until Modern Times, and had to abandon the Tramp character entirely to talk on-screen in Monsieur Verdoux.)

This is a roundabout way of coming to a review of The Artist, the quintuple-Oscar®-winning film by Michel Hazanavicius that came out on DVD and blu-ray (I do NOT need another format to worry about) recently.  My Beautiful Wife and I sat spellbound through it, and as an aficionado of the days before Lee DeForest, Tobis Klangfilm, Western Electric, and Vitaphone, I have to say it was spectacular.

The acting was phenomenal – Jean Dujardin’s turn as George Valentin, dashing tuxedo-clad hero (with an admitted affectionate nod to Douglas Fairbanks Sr.) struck just the right notes with me, and Bérénice Bejo as Peppy Miller, a combination of Clara Bow and several others who were big in the just-new sound era, was phenomenal.
You know, I can’t really say enough in favor of this movie – buy it, see it, see it again, and again, and again.

Oh, yeah…{in my very bad Louis Armstrong imitation}

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  1. Although I have a problem with no sound! I just don’t know if I could sit through it…

    • I have to say this… Watching a silent movie is an acquired taste. Depending on what type of film you like best (comedy, drama, Western, horror, suspense, etc.) you can translate many of the ways you watch the sound versions to the silents; you just have to pay a bit more attention, and read the intertitles (the title cards in the shots that give dialogue, directions, or other things you should know).
      Practice leads to Carnegie Hall (to paraphrase, and badly, the old joke).

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