Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Downhill (1927)

Hitchcock! Hitchcock! Hitchcock!
Is it me or are French film poster the best of the bunch?

Genre: Silent Drama (UK)

Starring: Ivor Novello (The Lodger), Robin Irvine (Easy Virtue)

Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock (Topaz, Marnie)

Overview: A promising young student is expelled when he takes another student's blame for theft. So begins his life's downhill descent for the sake of another man's honour.

Acting: When I saw Ivor in The Lodger, I dreaded the promise of his overzealous acting in this one. Knowing that this was produced in the same year also served to reinforce the fact that Hitchcock's style of direction would not have been any different, letting his crew run amok before the camera. Was I ever wrong! I have no idea what happened, but this is a masterpiece in comparison. I really enjoyed the portrayals, the characterization was quite rich, and with so many great expression-showing close-ups, I found it very fine indeed!
Rating: 8

Cinematography: Here we begin seeing the Hitchcockian signature cinematography. In fact, when that shot of Ivor going down a subway escalator is shown, I said, "There's a touch of Hitchcock, great shot." The shot continues for easily another ten seconds. I chuckled saying "and boy did he ever know it was." It's interesting seeing that what this man lingered on in his early cinematic career became a shooting style synonymous with his name. As for the montage of the boy's delirium, it's nightmare dream-sequence genius.
Rating: 8

Script: The intertitles used a common simple great style with a touch of a flourish, with a nice font and none of the German expressionist Avant-garde frou-frou that they had in The Lodger. What was disappointing was that there weren't nearly enough. Sometimes you'd see a scene unfold, and though you could mildly infer what was being said, it would have been nice to have that safety net. When they had the opportunity to add poignancy to the scene with words, they chose to leave it blank instead. Worst of all, the crime of the theft was explained without words, so we thought it was a whole sexual harassment false-accusation kind of thing.
Rating: 6

Plot: The story is very simple: a young man does for a friend what he felt was appropriate, and somehow it ends up biting him in the ass all too hard. What makes this film memorable is the step-by-step exploration of that descent, because it isn't done in a predictably linear fashion of: expelled, kicked out, living in the gutter, then you die kind of way. It's far more realistic, more 'your life has changed because you didn't finish the education you were promised and you have to live with it.'
Rating: 8

Mood: This is what the film is all about. The characters, the occasional unique shots and the trip through madness and descent that our hero goes through. The beauty is that there's none of the over-zeal I've seen in Hitchcock's other productions, and it looks like he's really beginning to turn films into his own creations at this point.
Rating: 8

"Oh, ho! Life is so sweet right now, nothing could go wrong!"

Overall Rating: 76% (Not THAT Steep, But A Thrill Nonetheless)

Aftertaste: This is just about as hard to find as The Pleasure Garden, and again I have but one man to thank, LIAM! I tried something new for the first time, and I should have thought of this ages ago. As this version has no sound whatsoever, I decided to play some Aphex Twin in the background (electronic ambient, no vocals). The juxtaposition was interesting with the occasional synchronicity that occurred, and besides that I knew I'd like the score. I would recommend this style of viewing for many a silent film out there, and I'll be doing it far more frequently. It really enhances the experience.