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E.A. (Varieté) Dupont's Piccadilly, the 1929 silent masterpiece brilliantly restored by the British Film Institute, stars the sultry Anna May Wong in her greatest role. After many years of supporting roles in Hollywood, Wong left for Europe in search of better work. And did she find it! Her electric, sexually-charged performance in Piccadilly is a revelation. Like Louise Brooks, that other erotic beauty who left America and found stardom as a siren in G.W. Pabst's Pandora's Box, Wong found her greatest role abroad. She is mesmerizing as Shosho, the Chinese scullery maid at a Piccadilly nightclub who overnight becomes the toast of London - and the object of desire of all around her. The camera adores Wong, and against Alfred Junge's astonishing set design, she glows on the big screen.
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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.
The film has enough "sexiness" to it without being in your face. I don't know why the cover shows a woman (Anna May?) dancing with her breasts uncovered. I've seen the film many times and there isn't a scene such as the one depicted on the cover art. Why cheapen a great movie with a false "hook"?
This film is diffidently worth purchasing, I highly recommend it..It is a work of art,
Find proper subtle music of the period and ENJOY...