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January 14, 2005

Easy Virtue

1928.Britain.Hitchcock

2.0 / 4.0

Easy Virtue is an early, silent Hitchcock that is memorable mostly because it foreshadows themes and techniques that the director would use later in his career. The plodding story centres on Larita Filton, whose identity is corrupted by the media after a sensational divorce trial, and her subsequent attempt to start a new life with her new, and younger, husband. However, this proves difficult because as soon as she moves into her husband’s house (Rebecca) she’s antagonized by his cruel, overprotective mother (Psycho, The Birds, Marnie, etc.) As the mother’s suspicions rise, Larita fights to keep her real identity a secret (Notorious).

Feminist film critics like to read the film as Hitchcock’s condemnation of a patriarchal society that oppresses women, citing the courts, the media, and even the mother as the guilty parties. Of the three, it is the role of the media, represented by the camera, that captured Hitchcock’s interest the most. A much expanded version of the idea would be the basis for Rear Window.

From a technical point of view, there are some minor Hitchcockian touches. The best is a visualization of telephone conversation and its outcome through the facial expressions of the telephone operator who is listening in. There is also a great shot of a man’s swinging pocket watch melting into and out of a shot of a swinging pendulum that can be read in a few different ways. Some subjective shots are quite good, too. Most effective, however, are Hitchcock’s scene transitions. In the film’s funniest transition, a French poodle turns into an English bulldog to signify a corresponding change of setting.

Easy Virtue is strictly for people interested in Hitchcock. Otherwise, it's pretty ordinary stuff.

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