Inspiration and Soul

How many days, weeks and months did I have to read about the movie Juno and Ellen Page? So if I write about Berenice Bejo you’ll have to bear with me. Yes Ellen is doing the same thing for Portia but too bad it's in schlocky American Comedy.

Michel_Berenice When I first started writing about this beautiful and marvelous actor I stated that the movie: The Artist was a movie that was specifically written for HER by her husband the director of the movie Michel Hazanavicius. I saw The Help and yes Octavia Butler was good [If you like the Sapphire stereotype].

Bejo is a woman of color making her role in The Artist essentially the result of “Color Blind” casting. “Color Blind” casting, or integrated casting is done without considering the actor’s ethnicity. As a result Bejo’s acting far exceeded what anyone was expecting, unfortunately since Hollywood still refuses to see women of color “beyond the pale” they rewarded what made them most comfortable: An African American actress in the stereotypical Mammy role.

Not to fear though because despite Frenchman Hazanavicius writing and directing: The Artist, and subsequently, giving his wife, Bérénice Bejo, the role of a lifetime. The fact that she didn't take home the Oscar is thankfully not the last time we will see Berenice, her other half is giving her a second shot. In a post-Academy Award interview, Hazanavicius revealed that his next film will be an adaptation of The Search, "and it will be with Bérénice."

I just came across this video. Remember that I did not see The Artist win the Academy Award for Best Picture 2012 because I no longer have cable and my digital television lost reception that night, oh the woes of living: Life On The Cheap.

But director of The Artist: Michel Hazanavicious knows who to thank first for the success of his film:

It’s no surprise that Berenice Bejo didn’t win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. After all Hollywood has rarely if ever portrayed women of color “beyond the pale.” 

Therefore I assume that it would be difficult for Hollywood producers to justify awarding the Oscar to a woman of color who acted in a manner made famous by Caucasian silent film stars like: Nazi Sympathizer Claudette Colbert, and silent film icons Joan Crawford or Marlene Dietrich, and Louise Brooks. Bejo didn’t act in a way that a racist industry is accustomed to. 
If Bejo won the Academy Award for essentially playing a role that a white actress [By Hollywood's standards]  should have been cast in, then the floodgates would open for more Color Blind casting and maybe Margaret Thatcher wouldn’t have been played by Meryl Streep.

The wonderful thing about color blind casting, is that it allows you to truly look past one’s ethnicity/race to focus on their craft. It is also something that Hollywood steadfastly refuses to embrace. Although I immediately noticed that the character Peppy Miller was a woman of color. That fact became less and less relevant as the movie progressed.

For example: Halle Berry could have played Peppy Miller but Hollywood producers and audiences would not have bought the notion of an American actor of color being a big time Hollywood star in the silent era of cinema unless the character portrayed was a servant or slave.

The Help did NOT contain any nuanced performances by women and I am sick of white people in the U.S. patting themselves on the back every time they make a movie where some bigot suddenly sees the errors of their ways and tells another bigot to get lost.

Give me a break.

How many people lie when they say: “I don’t see color, I see the person.” Denying Berenice Bejo the Oscar for a movie that she was integral to and without whom the success of The Artist wouldn't have been, because her portrayal of Peppy Miller wasn’t contingent on the assumptions of a racist movie industry is TRAGIC.


This reminds me of how Josephine Baker became world famous only AFTER she moved to Paris, because a racist America didn’t appreciate her talents. 

So when Bejo’s husband, director Michel Hazanavicius thanked her for being the inspiration and soul of The Artist, he was sending the message to Hollywood that he knew that his wife was cheated out an award she well deserved, I wholeheartedly agree.


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