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El País, Spain

The Triumph of Nostalgia

Translated By Amy Carruthers

28 February 2012

Edited by Casey J. Skeens

Spain - El País - Original Article (Spanish)

France conquers Hollywood with a tribute to its origins.

Is it a sign of the times or purely coincidence? The truth is that the past, the glorious past of the dawn of cinema, has been the undisputed victor in the Oscars this year. A silent film, filmed in black and white, which brings to the screen the traumatic transition to “talkies” and an homage to the captivating magic of the origins of cinema through the figure of Georges Méliès, received one of the highest numbers of nominations: 10 for “The Artist,” from the Frenchman Michel Hazanavicius, and 11 for Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo.” Scorsese already counts among the classics of cinema and continues to enthusiastically explore the future of his craft, this time turning to the possibilities 3D has to offer.

The two films received 5 Oscars, but “The Artist” won: Best Film, Best Director, and Best Actor, in addition to Best Soundtrack and Best Costumes. Scorsese had to settle for the more technical awards.

The results were clear: The past had prevailed. Overwhelmingly, it is the past that is associated with cinema's golden years. Once, it seems, Hollywood was a true dream-making machine; once, and this goes for Méliès, there were some prodigious professionals who turned any screen into a place where magic happened. Nostalgia, when it works, binds with this enchanting lure that heralds how the past was always better and, above all, degrades the present in the face of a brilliance that will never return. An effective comfort it seems, in times of crisis.

It hasn't only been the winning films who have succumbed to the temptation to delight in the past. Woody Allen, winner of the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, went to Paris in the Roaring Twenties. And Meryl Streep won the award for Actress in a Leading Role for playing Margaret Thatcher in a film that avoids dealing with her ultra-liberal policies that still continue to have influence today. This, in any case, has interrupted the flow of Nicolas Sarkozy and Françoise Hollande, who are competing for the presidency and who, each in his way — Vive la France! — have shared the shout of Jean Dujardin on receiving the statuette for Best Leading Actor: Formidable! (in French, of course).



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