A look at a few films, new and old, that remembered the value of perfect silence
The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius' delightful mash note to the silent cinema, is looking like a sure bet for heavy recognition at this year's Oscars, racking up three SAG Award nominations, five Independent Spirit Award nominations, and six Golden Globe nominations, in addition to awards for best film of the year from the Boston Society of Film Critics, the New York Film Critics Circle, the Phoenix Film Critics Society, and the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association. It's easy to see why film critics in particular have taken to it: it evocatively tells the story of the end of the silent era as a silent movie, complete with black-and-white photography and period music (even using the traditional 1.33:1 aspect ratio).
But it's not the first sound-era film to ape the silent style; aside from Chaplin's final silent pictures, done well after sound had taken over, there's Mel Brooks's 1976 slapstick tribute Silent Movie, and Charles Lane's 1989 indie Sidewalk Stories. What's more, countless sound directors have used silent storytelling techniques to great effect, eschewing dialogue (and sometimes even sound effects) to work their narrative beats via purely visual means. Here we've assembled ten great "silent" scenes from the sound era.
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Image credit: Compagnie Industrielle et Commerciale Cinématographique