Santa Monica - The Artist won best picture and three other prizes Saturday at the Spirit Awards honouring independent film, a possible prelude to a big night at the Academy Awards for the black-and-white silent movie.
The film also won for best director for Michel Hazanavicius and lead actor for Jean Dujardin as a silent-era star whose career crumbles as talking pictures take over in the 1920s. It earned the cinematography prize for Guillaume Schiffman, too.
The Artist is the best picture favourite at Sunday's Oscars.
Michelle Williams won best actress as Marilyn Monroe in the filmmaking tale My Week with Marilyn.
Supporting-acting honours went to Christopher Plummer as an elderly widower who comes out as gay in Beginners and Shailene Woodley as a troublesome Hawaiian teenager in The Descendants.
The Artist producer Thomas Langmann said the awards attention for the film was especially gratifying given how difficult it was to line up financing for a silent film, a form that went out of vogue more than 80 years ago.
"Everybody told us this is so much against conventional wisdom," Langmann said.
An informal celebration compared to Hollywood's many black-tie honours, the Spirit Awards were presented in their usual venue in a tent along the beach in Santa Monica, just west of Los Angeles.