I must begin by saying, Alfred Hitchcock’s champagne, although atypical of Hicthcocks later suspense thrillers is absolutely darling! It’s a silent film set in the middle of the twenties. Betty Balfour plays a ditsy, carefree and somewhat naive society girl in this whimsical little tale of riches to rags to riches again. I think “The Artist” has appropriated many scenes from the film- because it is everything that you could possibly want from a silent movie.
However, there is a big BUT coming,
The BFI endeavoured to digitally remaster the original film, a noble crusade, although I think they overdid the contrast. They premiered their digitally remastered film last night at the BFI Southbank, with a live feed going to cinemas all over the U.K . for the occasion they had commissioned electronic composer Mira Calix to write a live score. The place was completely booked out, I was only going last minute as a friend invited me but she’d had the tickets for weeks.
Maybe I’m biased because our seats weren’t good, they were in the one corner directly obstructed by the vocal ensemble’s microphones. Vocal Ensemble? we thought as we sat down, but we went with it regardless of our suspicion. The reel began and 10 seconds later this absurd mixture of electronic thudding and atonal strings blared from our corner of the cinema. It was just that little bit out of time with the goings on in the film but it was nothing you couldn’t phase out after a while- hey it was experimental, why not? we reasoned.
Then the bastardisation of Hitchcock began. The vocal ensemble, in naff costumes which confused my friend and I until we figured out they were meant to be flappers, started to sing warped extracts from hit pop tunes, such as “My Humps” and “Rich Bitch” in their very BBC British accents, choral style. I don’t know whether the rest of the audience got the references, as they gave it a standing ovation. But it was entirely distracting, obscene and uncomfortable. Watching a room full of really middle class film buffs grooving along to “My Milkshake brings all the boys to the yard….” was tragic and I am left utterly bemused. I can do nothing but keep an eye on the reviews.