Easy Virtue [DVD]
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Easy Virtue is a 1928 British silent romance film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Isabel Jeans, Franklin Dyall and Ian Hunter. The movie is loosely based on the 1924 play Easy Virtue by Noël Coward. It was made at the Islington Studios in London. The film's art direction is by Clifford Pember.
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At the time being at the helm of a movie based on a Noel Coward play would have been rather prestigious (even if Coward had little to do with the movie itself despite conferences with Hitchcock over it prior to filming) yet as a silent movie adaptation of a play there was little that could be added when, by necessity, the dialogue of the play was reduced to the occasional intertitle.
Yet it's not without merits on it's own right, containing numerous little flourishes that will delight those who've paid close attention to Hitchcock's career. Witness how, for example, we find out about a marriage proposal not by seeing/listening to the people in question but through someone listening in on a telephone switchboard; see the divorce court judge peering through his monocle at the counsel. It may not seem like much in today's world of CGI, but it was years ahead of it's time in 1928.
The subject matter is pretty anachronistic for today's viewers but would have caused quite a stir in the 1920's. It's held together by a superb performance from Isabel Jeans as Larita Filton, a lady married to a heartless cad who believes she has been unfaithful to him and brings her to court for adultery. Of course at the time it was the female who had most to lose in the court of public opinion for such a thing (even if she hadn't actually committed adultery at all) but Jeans performance here gives us both a hint of the sympathy she deserves as the victim in all of this but just that little hint that she's far from an angel either.
Most of the cast (quite a few who made the leap from Hitchcock's previous film Downhill) do their best but at the heart of it this is a misfire. How, after all, can you make a silent movie out of a play. There might be ways of doing it, but they don't surface here. Still, Hitchcock was having fun and being inventive and it's far from a wash out taken on those terms.
It is based on a Noel Coward play but there is very little left of his dialogue beside the occasional title.
But do not despair this is a little treasure with a number of Hitchcock trademarks that he will develop more fully in later films: the editing and photography are delicious. His framing of the narrative with visual symbolic clues make you realise what a master he was even this early. There is a classic Hitchcock moment when a tennis match is seen through the strings of a raquet ~ breathtaking. So overlook the qualityand marvel at the storyteller who could take a play famous for its language and turn it into a visual study of doubt, treachery and jealousy
This 80 year old piece outshines the 2009 filmed version of the same play
We start with the trial and flash back to where a woman (Isabel Jeans) hides her sordid past from her new husband and family.
We learn what easy virtue really means.
A fun sideline is trying to figure out where you have seen the actors before.
Easy virtue,: A play in three acts
Easy Virtue [Blu-ray] ~ Jessica Biel
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