DUBAI // The Artist is in black and white and has no dialogue. Unfortunately, it seems that while this clever tribute to Hollywood’s Golden Age might be the most talked about film of the last few months, picking up numerous awards and seemingly heading for Oscar domination, not everybody in the UAE has been reading the reviews. “You do know this film is in black and white and is silent, don’t you?” was a question many faced when buying tickets in the select Dubai theatres the film opened in last week.
Apparently, some viewers had complained, not having realised that the film was of a monochrome and sound-free nature, which is the very thing critics have said makes the film. It pays tribute to 1920s Hollywood, and has been labeled as such a “magnificent crowd-pleaser”.
“It’s special movie, it’s not for the majority,” admits Roy Chacra of Shooting Stars UAE, the distributor for The Artist across the region. “But sometimes people would go and watch a film because they like the poster or trailer, and only then see that it was actually in black and white.”
Chacra says that the UAE’s movie-going public is generally very “popcorn driven”, which is why The Artist was only given a limited launch in the country. “We released it in Dubai where most of the expats are and later on we’ll see the results and decide what to do,” he says, adding that it will eventually come to Abu Dhabi. “It’ll go one by one, market by market. UAE is the biggest market in the GCC. Then it’ll move to Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, etc.”
While he hopes the publicity surrounding The Artist in the Oscar’s build-up drives people to watch the film, Chacra admits that many in the UAE would be drawn to titles considered less high-brow, perhaps a reason why films that would normally head straight-to-DVD elsewhere in the world, such as Steven Seagal actioners, find themselves given theatrical releases. “If you say The Artist or this B movie, lots of people would go for the B movie.”
But the complaints made about The Artist’s lack of dialogue and colour aren’t solely confined to the UAE. In the UK, Odeon Cinemas admitted it had refunded the tickets of several guests who were unaware about the silence. Audiences in France have also struggled with the film, apparently because the word for ‘silence’ in French is ‘mute’ and viewers thought they were watching a drama about mute and deaf people.