Patsy Brand is a chorus girl at the Pleasure Garden music hall. She meets Jill Cheyne who is down on her luck and gets her a job as a dancer. Jill is engaged to adventurer Hugh Fielding and...
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Patsy Brand is a chorus girl at the Pleasure Garden music hall. She meets Jill Cheyne who is down on her luck and gets her a job as a dancer. Jill is engaged to adventurer Hugh Fielding and she introduces Patsy to his colleague, Levitt, and they fall in love. Two different fates await the two couples. Written by
Col Needham <email@example.com>
The dog, shown chewing up some clothing, disappears in the wide-angle shots of the apartment. See more »
Pleasure Garden theatergoer:
That's an exquisite chorus line, Mr. Hamilton.
Meet Patsy Brand.
Pleasure Garden theatergoer:
I had to meet you because I was charmed by that lovely curl of hair.
[detaches the curl and presents it]
Then I give it to you and hope you have a nice time. Now that wasn't a very clever line, was it?
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Compared to the industries in Hollywood and Germany, precious few British films from the silent era have been preserved and deemed worthy of study. The Pleasure Garden would probably have been consigned to the dusty bin of obscurity, were it not for its being the debut of one Alfred Hitchcock.
Hitchcock was of course destined for greatness, so this picture inevitably gets scrutinised for hints of said greatness, or at least traces of Hitchcockiness. A point-of-view shot of the legs of a chorus line in the opening scene is often referenced as an example of such, a bit of pure voyeurism that is at odds with the moralist plot line. A slightly more story-orientated point-of-view shot occurs when a pickpocket eyes up Virginia Valli's handbag. Hitchcock was clearly interested from the beginning by the idea of putting the audience in the place of a character, and the latter example helps to tell the story visually, but it is of little long-term value. Neither the thief nor the leg-viewer become established characters, so there is really no need for us to "become" them.
The way these early scenes are shot may be aimed to cut down on the intertitles by conveying the story visually. You see, during his apprenticeship Hitchcock had done some art direction work on Der Letzte Mann, a picture best known for containing no intertitles whatsoever except one at the beginning and one near the end. While the resultant excess of technique is in fact more distracting than title cards, the idea obviously fired the young Hitch's imagination. To avoid having to "tell", he goes to somewhat forceful lengths to "show". Then again, it could just be because the 26-year-old director really liked to look at women's legs.
But after those showy opening sequences, The Pleasure Garden gets bogged down in a series of "talking" scenes. By contrast the interaction here is shot rather flatly, and there are suddenly lots of intertitles. This middle section of the picture is incredibly slow and boring. The plot is muddied by a lack of well-defined, memorable characters and the fact that the two female leads look very similar is especially confusing. In the melodramatic climax there are some vague attempts at psychological manipulation, with a few close-ups of a menaced Valli, but it's too little too late.
The Pleasure Garden is full of tricks, many of which can be seen as corresponding to the technique of the later Hitchcock "God" shots, point-of-view shots, close-ups to focus us on a particular object. But these are all things any monkey could pick up after hanging around a few film sets, and the director does not yet know how to put them to best use. The Pleasure Garden may pique the interest of Hitchcock completists, but other than that it is simply dull.
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