09 December 2008

Hitchcock | Rich and Strange (1931)

Rich and Strange (1931)
written by Alfred Hitchcock, Alma Reville and Val Valentine, based on a novel by Dale Collins

A bit of a long way to go for a "grass is always greener" tale. Hitchcock sent a crew with a silent camera on a duplicate of the journey his characters take, getting real footage from Egypt and Sri Lanka and Singapore to cut into his film. The footage is nice. It adds a great deal of authenticity to the couple's travels and gives the movie a scope larger than anything Hitchcock's done so far.

I hated the two main characters. The husband and wife are naive nearly to the point of mental retardation. Watching them travel the world in complete ignorance of both the cultures they're visiting and of each other (despite eight years of marriage) was akin to reading the comments posted under a Youtube video. I know part of the point of the film is watching how badly the nouveau riche handle their wealth; that class is a sort of trap you can't escape no matter how fancy the dress you buy. Still, maybe at least one of these characters could've been a wee more sympathetic?

Or, the film should've gone the other way. If all we're going to do is watch a pair of idiots stumble through life until they figure out home is where they're most comfortable, make it a full-on black comedy. Let's see some funny tragedy. Have the husband slip while trying on a new tuxedo, fall overboard and lose a leg to a shark. Have the wife blinded by the sun glinting off her lover's war medals. Have some more fun with it beyond a near-sighted lady constantly being ignored and the accidental consumption of a cat.

Hitchcock tries some new tricks in this film. He often cuts to brief shots of places or things to emphasize the mental states of his characters. For example, he cuts to a quick shot of a lifeboat while the wife is talking to her would-be lover, the commander. It's a ham-handed technique, but it's something to watch for. There's the previously mention second unit world tour. He brings back silent movie-style intertitles, though for place names and descriptions and not dialogue. There's a POV shot of the wife's tears blurring her vision that I thought was touching.

Despite their mental handicaps, Hitchcock does capture some strong scenes between the couple. After they've discovered that their affairs have both ended, I liked watching the pair dance around the subject, trying not to mention anything to do with it. The scene in the ship's cabin when they think they're going to die was well done, and not a bad idea for a realistic reason the two cheaters would get back together.

Another strange Hitchcock film. He must have been a weird state of mind in 1931. (6/10)

Watched the region 1 DVD released by Lionsgate in 2007 as a part of the Alfred Hitchcock: 3-Disc Collector's Edition. Nice print and an OK transfer.