terça-feira, 13 de março de 2012

The Artist and the New Silent Films

By Ulisses da Motta Costa, Kassandra’s director, on the current trend of silent films:

It may seem somewhat surprising that this year Academy Awards decided to consecrate a black-and-white silent movie. The Artist, a Belgian-French production that pays homage to the American cinema of the early decades of the twentieth century, won five statuettes: best picture, director (Michel Hazanavicius), actor (Jean Dujardin), original score (Ludovic Bource) and costume design ( Mark Bridges). However, it is not an isolated case.

The film looks back at the cinema history to find a new benchmark, in a time of creative crisis in American cinema. To search in other times a new foundation to rebuild or renovate the arts is something that happens frequently in human culture. Thus, the apparent aesthetic audacity in The Artist is actually part of a "movement" (in the lack of a better term) to seek for visual narratives.

Or perhaps this “better term” I'm missing is "trend". In the last half decade we have seen popping examples of films based less on dialogue and more on the visual.

It is easy to remember recent examples in Hollywood: the Pixar animation Wall-E , the first 15 minutes of P.T. Anderson’s There Will Be Blood, or even crucial scenes from Rise of the Planet of the Apes. In the same France that has produced The Artist we have Sylvain Chomet, who directed two feature animation films, The Triplets of Belleville and The Illusionist. In the 2009 Gramado Film Festival, I saw this uruguayan comedy, Gigante, who badly needed dialogue or music to tell its story.

We can ask why the makers of these films have toke this decision. But most important is the fact that films form diverse genres, origins and intentions have worked so well with the proposal of not using dialogues to drive the narrative. The Artist, of course, go further: don’t even have noise or sound effects
of any kind (except for two scenes). All you hear is the music. After all, the intention was to recreate a cinema of the past and so the process had to be more intense, including a characteristic black-and-white cinematography.

The film caught my attention when we were in preproduction of Kassandra. Our little film is also in black-and-white, virtually dispenses the dialogues and has a mute protagonist. Of course, these choices do not intend to recreate the past, but are based on what we believe that work’s for the story.  But the "blame" for a lack of creativity never hit me. On the contrary: it made me feel inside and "belonging" to something bigger and more powerful.

It’s a feeling that the path we choose seems to be more certain than we might suppose.

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