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More To PICCADILLY Than Just Anna.,
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This review is from: Piccadilly (DVD)
A lot of attention has been paid to this film first on screen in special showings and now on DVD thanks to the presence of Anna May Wong. Her performance is indeed a revelation but there's much more to the film than just Anna. PICCADILLY is visually a very stylish film thanks to the trademark fluid camerawork of director E.A.Dupont. The sets of the Piccadilly Club are breathtaking. Although stylishly contemporary for when the film was made, they now serve as a time capsule for us today taking us back to 1929 London.
The use of lighting especially in the scenes with Anna May Wong gives added depth to the proceedings. And while this is definitely her movie there are other fine performances as well. Cyril Ritchard as Gilda Gray's partner in the opening scenes (I thought I was watching Fred Astaire), Charles Laughton (in his first film role) as a dissatisfied club customer, and especially King Ho Chang as Wong's boyfriend Jim who ultimately holds the key to the film's resolution. PICCADILLY plays very much like an exotic version of PANDORA'S BOX (made a year earlier and directed by another German, G.W. Pabst) with Wong as a Chinese Louise Brooks. The story is basically a backstage melodrama done many times before and since but it's the style and the performances that really put it over.
I do have one problem with this DVD and that is the score by Neil Brand. Written for 7 piece jazz band, there is an overall sameness to it throughout the course of the film. Scenes such as Wong's Chinese dance or most of the scenes in Limehouse could have used a different and more dramatic scoring in my opinion. The composer is on the special features segment of the DVD explaining what he did and why which is helpful in understanding his choices. It isn't a bad score, it just didn't work for me.
Overall the film is lovingly restored, the DVD has a number of bonus features, and we have yet another top quality release from Milestone Films. People interested in Anna May Wong (and there seem to be many) should check out her performance as a Madame Butterfly like character in TOLL OF THE SEA, the first ever Technicolor feature made back in 1922 when Anna was only 17. It's part of the TREAURES FROM AMERICAN FILM ARCHIVES series which will be reissued in May.