Can ‘The Artist’ Have It Both Ways?

In an odd turn of events, “The Artist” could win the Oscar as a French film a day after winning a Spirit Award as an American one

Last Updated: February 23, 2012 @ 2:05 PM

If "The Artist" wins the Academy Award for Best Picture on Sunday night, it will be the first film from a non-English speaking country to win the award.

Or will it?

Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo in The ArtistThe Academy says the black-and-white silent film was made by a number of European production companies.

But the Film Independent Spirit Awards says it qualifies as an American production.

"The Artist" truly crosses boundaries in an international filmmaking landscape where national borders are increasingly blurry.

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It was launched in Paris but shot in Hollywood. Its title cards are in English, written by a Frenchman – but on the set, its star said, "We spoke in English, in French, in gibberish, in dog language."

The Frenchman who wrote and directed the film – and who, according to paperwork submitted to Film Independent, has permanent U.S. resident status – offered a useful talking point when he won the DGA Award: "I'm not American, and I'm not French, actually. I'm a filmmaker."

The Academy lists "The Artist" as the product of seven different production companies. Five of them – La Petite Reine, Studio 37, JD Prod, Jouror Productions and France 3 Cinema – are listed as being France-based by IMDb Pro; one, uFilm Production, is based in Brussels.

Only La Classe Americaine, director Michel Hazanavicius' company, does not have a location listed.

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On the Weinstein Co.'s submission form for the Spirit Awards, it indicated that the film received partial financing from a company whose principal office is in the United States, and also that writer-director Hazanavicius was a permanent U.S. resident.

Either of those factors would qualify the film as American under Spirit Awards rules.

Hazanavicius is certainly no stranger to blurred lines of nationality. His company, Le Classe Americaine, is named after a 1993 movie he made for French television by taking footage from old American films, re-editing it and dubbing it into French.

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So when Hazanavicius shows up at the Spirit Awards on Saturday afternoon (fresh from a couple of weeks in Paris), he'll be the director of an American indie film.

And when he leaves the Oscars the next evening, he might be the director of the first French film to ever win Best Picture.

Or maybe, as his film has been insisting all along, language and nationality won't matter at all.