​What “The Artist” Can Teach Us about Communications

We didn’t need dialogue. We had faces.
Norma Desmond
Sunset Boulevard

The Artist in The TubeLater today, I’ll be among millions worldwide watching the 84th annual Academy Awards. Although surprises do happen, this year’s favorite for best picture is director Michel Hazanavicius’s homage to silent film, “The Artist.”

It features an international cast perfectly suited to their roles — each is blessed with an interesting, attractive, expressive face. Capitalizing on their ability to showcase a wide range of emotions non-verbally, the actors tell the story of Hollywood’s transition from silent film to talkies.

It’s a classic movie tale. An aspiring actress meets the dashing matinee idol she adores. There’s a spark but obstacles stand in their way. In time, she becomes a star but, unable to adapt to the new, he loses it all.

It’s not until the final scene, when the hero and heroine reconnect and collaborate, that we understand why he resisted change.

Historic film capsule
The magic of “The Artist” lies both in the acting and in the creative visual and musical references to our film heritage, which you identify as the drama unfolds.

Can you imagine a wordless spat? “The Artist” creates one, referencing the famous breakfast montage from “Citizen Kane.”

It’s an early scene in the film. An exasperated wife, Doris (Penelope Ann Miller), confronts her movie star husband George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) at the breakfast table with a copy of Variety. The front page shows a cute ingenue, Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), kissing him after a premiere.

Trying to get back into his wife’s good graces and bridge their distance, George does what he does best — lays on the charm. When Doris refuses to yield, he enlists his loyal Jack Russell terrier in the act. Although Uggie manages to coax a tiny smile from Doris, she’s not in the mood to forgive. She departs, leaving George only the unconditional love of his adorable sidekick and best friend.

Added appeal
No matter the outcome of today’s Oscar ceremony, for communicators, there’s real appeal to adding the film to your queue if you haven’t yet seen it. Despite the benefits improving technologies bring to our roles, “The Artist” inspires us to appreciate the lasting power of face-to-face communications.  When the communications goal is building trust, it still leads as a preferred strategy.

With so many social networking tools now available, do you think nonverbal communication is as important today as it has been historically?

Thanks to Annie Mole for sharing a poster from The Tube via Flickr.

You might also enjoy The Downton Abbey School of Change Readiness.

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About creativeconsiderations

Christine Sullivan is a communications strategist with expertise in communications planning, writing and content development, and executive communications. She can be reached at mycreativeconsiderations@gmail.com.
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