“Easy Virtue” (1927)

IN THE DIRECTOR’S CHAIR WITH ALFRED HITCHCOCK REVIEW: “Easy Virtue” stars Isabel Jeans (Gigi, Suspicion), Franklin Dyall (The Private Life of Henry VIII), Ian Hunter (The Adventures of Robin Hood, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde [1941]), Robin Irvine (When Boys Leave Home, The Ship of Lost Men), Violet Farebrother (The Woman for Joe, Richard III), and Frank Elliott (Gentle Julia, Once to Every Woman). It is directed by Alfred Hitchcock (Vertigo, North by Northwest), and written by Noël Coward (In Which We Serve, Brief Encounter) and Eliot Stannard (A State Affair, The Manxman).

Larita Filton (Jeans), having recently divorced in a scandalous court case, must confront her past when she is brought home to the parents of her new fiancee.

Hitchcock grows more auteur in his filmmaking with “Easy Virtue,” a story about a woman who can’t seem to catch a break in such a harsh society.

I have to level with you all. I saw this a while back, late at night, and fighting the urge to stay awake. Not the most ideal way to watch a film, but with so much going on in life (April being the most hectic), I find myself seeing movies when I should be asleep. My goal in seeing “Easy Virtue” was to keep my eyes open; my mind, on the other hand, tended to wander.

As I said in my previous review of Hitchcock’s silent pictures, what is most difficult to endure with this medium are the long scenes that showcase people talking, but hardly any indication as to what they are saying. “Easy Virtue” amps this up by opening with a courtroom scene. It’s Aaron Sorkin’s wheelhouse of a location/plot device, but what works best for those sequences is dialogue. We want to know the case, hear the defense, and garner our opinion. With “Easy Virtue,” I saw a long forum of older white men in wigs arguing… but not sure why. A woman stood trial, and through flashbacks I came to understand that she was convicted of adultery, and I guess second-degree murder? It’s hard to say. The events that took place were shown, but what she was exactly tried for is a little murky.

Despite this, what I grew to love about “Easy Virtue” is its cinematography, which takes major leaps in being artsy. I was in awe over the monocle lens shot in the beginning, and Hitchcock played around with transitional shots in the best of ways. It’s cinematically brilliant in its sense of filming and cutting, with the knowledge that a lot of cinema around that time was fairly simple. Hitchcock was clearly cutting his teeth with this style, as he’s slowly honing his skill to weave stories (even if the story itself isn’t all that interesting).

As the plot unfolded, I grew a bit more entertained by the film, but not nearly as much as the three movies prior in this marathon. “Easy Virtue” is a feature with a message, as we are given the tale of society trying to teach a lesson through someone else’s struggle as a means to feel better about themselves. Our leading woman didn’t commit adultery, nor did she treat her abusive ex-husband poorly. But because she was put on trial, her name was dragged through the mud, and it has affected the relationships she would try to mend through the rest of the feature. I can see where it would be engaging… it just didn’t do anything for me. Aside from the cinematography and certain shots, nothing stuck or left a lasting impact. I felt sorry for the lead character, as her story is sad, but I became detached once I popped the disc out of the player.

“Easy Virtue” isn’t Hitchcock’s finest of this silent film marathon, but it is certainly his best visually. He’s slowly becoming the director we know and appreciate, and it’s awesome to see that growth. Unfortunately, the story itself doesn’t do much for this reviewer. FINAL SCORE: 60%= Burnt Popcorn

Here is the full movie:

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