'The Artist' actor: The beauty of black-and-white cinema
January 25th, 2012
02:37 PM ET

'The Artist' actor: The beauty of black-and-white cinema

Editor's Note: As an actor, Ken Davitian has appeared in several films, including "Get Smart" and "Borat." He has a bit role in the Academy Award nominated film "The Artist," which is up for best picture, among other awards. He is the author of this guest blog for Marquee.

I was always a big, big fan of black-and-white movies.

I’m mostly an admirer of the acting during that era of cinema, as it was so expressive. Today, most young filmmakers use black-and-white to be more artistic, but in the 1920s and ‘30s it was a common style. The filmmakers just didn’t have color yet, and they had to rely on the performers to portray a room full of color.When I received the script for “The Artist” I liked it immediately - though when I first met the director, Michel Hazanavicius, I told him he was gutsy for making a black-and-white silent film in this day and age.

I wasn’t really sure that it would go anywhere, to be honest, but I also wasn’t concerned with budget or box office. I just wanted to do something that was creatively challenging and that would be critically and artistically accepted. I am thrilled that that’s exactly how it turned out to be.

When I first read the script, I was taken aback by how romantic it was. I eventually found out that the director wrote it for his wife, Berenice Bejo, who stars in the film and has been nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actress.

I thought the film was just such a beautiful love story, and I am not surprised that it resonates with today’s audiences. Nobody dies, there are no car chases, no one gets beaten up, and there are no naked people and no sex – just a happy movie with a happy ending. Moviegoers leave the movie feeling happy.

During the Great Depression, audiences went to the theater to escape reality. Looking at the world right now, it seems people are unhappy about their finances and their jobs, and concerned about their futures. I think people are eager to escape reality the way they did back then, and to have a film and its stars sweep them off their feet. It reminds them of the time when film stars were special and personified class. The movie brings back that old glamour of the studio system, and reminds people of how elegant, exceptional and special Hollywood was during that time.

Today’s movies are often filled with so much noise – explosions, guitar shrieking, yelling, hysteria. But this one is so quiet, it is almost silent (wink). The audience of today is a 3-D audience. Every movie has to be bigger: more exciting, more challenging, more full of special effects than the last picture.

But Hazanavicius toned it down. Because I am always big and over the top, I asked him if this is how he wanted me to act, but he said no, he wanted it real. I was actually happy to hear that. I had never known anyone who had studied for silent film, even in college. It was hard to find that middle ground of not exaggerating the expressions, but being expressive enough to replace the words.

That said, I don’t think we’ll be returning to silent pictures. I think it takes a genius like Mel Brooks (“Silent Movie”) or Michel to do this. Perhaps someone like Martin Scorsese, Darren Aronofsky or Francis Ford Coppola could pull it off, bringing things back from the past and completely re-envisioning them [to] make them work.

We have already won a Golden Globe award, and I can only pray that this movie will resonate with the members of the Academy as it has with the critics.


Filed under: Awards Season • movies • Oscars 2012

soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. icon design

    I apologise, but, in my opinion, you are mistaken. Let's discuss.

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    September 14, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  2. icon design

    Actually. You will not prompt to me, where I can find more information on this question?

    P.S. Please review our icons for Windows and windows12icons.

    September 14, 2012 at 1:57 am | Report abuse |
  3. TEC4

    Loved this film - can't remember the last time I enjoyed going to the movies this much. J'adore Jean Dujardin!

    April 2, 2012 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
  4. Olivier

    Neopetshelpur on November 7, 2011 Someone msesaged me telling me they got too many random events guys, so please don't go crazy with the generator.. they only got a warning tho no ban

    February 13, 2012 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  5. S.Dalfalano

    LADIES & GENTLEMEN: HERE IS THE PROOF! THE UNDENIABLE TRUTH OF WHY AMERICA IS GOING DOWN THE DRAIN & IS THE LAUGHING STOCK OF THE WORLD. PLEASE READ THE COMMENTS ABOVE ME!!!

    January 30, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Who dat

    I can't believe they're turning this into a race issue.

    January 26, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  7. fritfrat

    Sometimes dogs sneeze.

    January 26, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Bob

    The car I am looking at right now is red.

    January 26, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. W2Lucky

    This is an embarrassment for SAG and those who put this movie up for best picture. Are you kidding me? Some guy's version or "art". I say keep it to yourself and give the nod to the Kristen Wigg wedding movie. It was funny and entertaining.

    January 26, 2012 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  10. John1

    #1 reason nobody likes this movie: We weren't born in 1910 for a reason, we have audio in movies now ! I see what they tried to do, but it doesn't work, only for the Academy people who think it is cool again or, well, they actually enjoyed these kind of movies back in their days.

    January 26, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  11. bob

    Good pt Jeff

    January 25, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jeff

    Werent no colored people around then either. Everyone looked all alike. When them dang scientist invented color it messed everything up.

    January 25, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  13. emilie

    I remember back in the olden days when everything was black & white. Even the trees and sky outside. Young people dont realize that thats the way everything really looked years ago. Colors werent even invented back before the 1920s. Plus even in the 1950s not everywhere had color. Some of the trees were still mostly gray.

    January 25, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  14. bob

    Yeah we all can't wait to view this Snorefest. Black @ White, wow like this hasn't been tried before! J-offs

    January 25, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  15. moonspinner

    it's a beautiful film!

    January 25, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  16. ^

    Typo-sorry. I'm typing with broken wrists and swollen fingers and hands. 'Nobody'

    January 25, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Nody

    I think they made it in black & white because it is cheaper to do. This is a jewish movie and jews are real stingy. They were wanting to save money so they could buy some more jew gold.

    January 25, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  18. edna

    who is nody ? I might have went to school with her.

    January 25, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  19. plungie

    I herd this is a JUUUUUUUUUUUUish movie. Them Juuus are always up to something. They are almost as bad as mormons.

    January 25, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  20. ^

    I think we know why nody is posting.

    January 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  21. yea

    Yea.

    January 25, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  22. LAY-DEE

    nobody likes this movie. no one is even bothering to post.

    January 25, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      It's a wonderful film, but I'm personally hoping "Hugo" wins for Best Picture!

      January 26, 2012 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |

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