Easy Virtue (1928)
Genre: Silent Drama (UK)
Starring: Isabel Jeans (Suspicion, Gigi), Franklin Dyall
Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock (Rear Window, Dial M For Murder)
Overview: After a notorious divorce, Larita moves to the south of France to rebuild her life. There she is romanced by an Englishman, and risks having her past brought to light once more.
Acting: There are some obvious directorial flaws in this one as the pantomime is more than dramatic, it's downright comedically theatrical. However, there's this one great scene where Larita calls John to discuss his proposal of marriage, and we see the telephone operator's face as she reacts to the conversation, rather than rather than seeing the couple speak into their respective phones. That's a tremendously original way of conveying a scene, especially in silent film, no matter how over-the-top it may seem.
Cinematography: I was surprised how little of the Hitchcockian signature was left behind on this print, given that Downhill was showing obvious streaks of his burgeoning style. Still, the exterior shots are majestic and grand, the artistic moments are frequent and though you can see the occasional attempt that just wasn't 100% effective, it's a worthy experiment nonetheless.
Script: The intertitles should have been more numerous. At this stage in my study of the silent film, I've grown to expect that on occasion, the scene should be inferred (as it was impressively done in my Acting category example), and I've grown accustomed to doing so, however there were two or three scenes that not only should have conveyed a more specific mood through dialogue, but that needed something interjected in the extended static shot being presented. As for the words themselves, there were only a couple memorable lines.
Plot: I'm trying to see the error in the story that would earn the reputation this film received for being poor, and I don't see it. It might be a little long given the standard three act tale: introducing this woman's terrible secret; romance; consequence. It may be a predictable and twistless tale, and perhaps even a completely outmoded story in this day and age, but I believe it still has value as a study of the high-society British divorcée.
Mood: As just stated, I suppose this story has no real lasting value. Unlike The Crowd, made in the same year as this one, this is not a story that could still happen today. For that reason people might find this just a little less than interesting, though I found myself intruiged from a historical perspective, learning about the social mores from the twenties. On a side note, listening to a silent film to modern ambient music that I love creates a wonderful juxtaposition, and enhances the experience that much more.
Overall Rating: 68% (Easy Come, Easy Go)
Aftertaste: The first thing I read about this was "Hitchcock's worst ever silent film". I remained stoic knowing that this was worthy of a study for the sake of being able to say I stuck through his early stuff to find those little hidden momoents. What's the first thing I see but a dynamically shot intro with special effects and great 'Point Of View of a monocle' shots. I knew right away that it wouldn't be anywhere near as bad as anyone told me. Not one of Hitchcock's popular films, this is still a treasure to die-hard fans, and those who appreciate silent cinematography.