The Artist hits a wall of silence after audience members demand refunds

Posted on 18 January 2012
By Pierce King
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Cinematic retro hit The Artist is being predicted to scoop a haul of gongs at the Baftas – but some film goers have been demanding refunds because it is a silent film.

The film is a stylised tribute to 1920s Hollywood, and the black and white treatment has already scored three Golden Globes for its unique portrayal of the arrival of ‘talkie’ movie era.

Bérénice Bejo has won glowing plaudits as rising star Peppy Miller playing opposite Jean Dujardin as fading leading man George Valentin and Malcolm McDowell.

But audiences at some Odeon Cinemas are unimpressed by the homage to the ‘Golden Age’ of silent films and complained about the smaller-than-usual screen.

The film was purposely reduced to a smaller screen size to give it an authentic look of original silent films which were hugely popular from the late 19th century to the early 30s.

Many silent film stars like Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy remain household names despite the fact that we live in an era of films laden with compter graphics.

Odeon have reported that cinema goers have walked out of screenings at their multiplex in Liverpool city centre, Manchester and London asking for the money back.

A Liverpool One Odeon spokesman said: “Odeon Liverpool One can confirm it has issued a small number of refunds to guests who were unaware that The Artist was a silent film.

“The cinema is happy to offer guests a refund on their film choice is they raise concern with a member of staff within 10 minutes of the film starting.”

Director Michel Hazanavicius’s acclaimed tale was named Best Musical or Comedy along with Best Score – beating Oscar-winning composer Trent Reznor’s soundtrack for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

Hazanavicius said he saw the funny side of the audience walkouts. He said: “I have been told about it and I think it’s hilarious.

“If I could give any advice to people it would be that they should ask for their money back whenever they see a film they don’t expect. If it’s not written on the poster ‘this is a bad movie’ and they think it’s a bad movie, ask for a refund.”

Some French audiences also had difficulty with the film. Hazanavicius explained: “It’s funny because we don’t have the same word in French for ‘silent’, we say ‘mute’. And in the beginning people kept asking, ‘Is this a movie about mute and deaf people?'”

The success of the first “talkie”, The Jazz Singer, released in 1927 and starring Al Jolson, was the beginning of the end for silent films and they had ceased production within a decade.
Hazanavicius said he hoped that The Artist would be the first of many films to revisit the silent era.