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... See full summary »
As a huge Hitchcock fan, Downhill was an interesting film but while not among his weakest it is a long way from being among his best. The acting is not bad at all, in fact decent(likewise with the chemistry between them), Ivor Novello's performance is expressive and moving if not always subtle, Isabel Jeans is a sympathetic Julia and Annette Benson makes Mabel's scheming believable. Ian Hunter is also very naturalistic in his role. The production values and Hitchcock's direction are Downhill's best qualities, both are superb. The film is really beautifully shot, some of the best and most ahead-of-its-time photography of any of Hitchcock's silent films. The choice of locations are appropriate and well-utilised, particularly with the scenes set in the nightclub and theatre. The hand-held camera shots signifying Roddy's delirium, the slow pan shot during the dance in the Parisian hall scene and the long pulling-back shot with us thinking that Roddy is dressing for a fancy night, then us thinking that he is waiter and then we realise that he is on the stage stand out as being especially good technically. Hitchcock wasn't yet in his comfort zone, but his direction not only shows technical skill but also early in his career being able to show the psychological insight that he was often so good at. As well as enhancing the mood. From a narrative standpoint unfortunately Downhill falls far short in comparison, for all how strong his visuals and direction are Hitchcock apparently had little interest in the story and it comes through loud and clear. The story creaks that wooden floorboards in a deserted house, makes very little sense and does drag quite badly at times. The characters are not very interesting and often one-sided which, especially with the female characters, may leave a sour taste in the mouth. The script touches on the social hypocrisy and the separation of classes- morally mostly- but to me it does very little with those themes and while interesting for when and where Downhill was set it doesn't hold up well today. On the whole, a mixed view here, loved it technically, didn't care for it narratively. 5/10 Bethany Cox
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