Piccadilly (1929)

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A scullery maid turned nightclub performer steals the screen -- and the leading man -- from her rival.

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Critic Reviews for Piccadilly

All Critics (17) | Top Critics (8)

Dupont has an original way of employing camera movement to suggest erotic chemistry between characters, and Wong, who even provoked a rave notice from Walter Benjamin, is as memorable and confident as Louise Brooks was in the films of G.W. Pabst.

Feb 2, 2011 | Full Review…

Like most English pictures, the drama is crudely shaped and conventionally directed. Anna May Wong does the best acting.

Feb 2, 2011 | Full Review…
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

Music is the usual medley of pop dance stuff, with the cabaret set about the best thing in the production. Camerawork on close-ups is excellent.

Mar 26, 2009 | Full Review…
Variety
Top Critic

The melodramatic machinations of the plot may be weak, but Dupont's assured direction, Alfred Jünge's art direction, and Werner Brandes' lighting create an atmosphere so hauntingly evocative as to be satisfying in itself.

Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…
Time Out
Top Critic

A swinging London club; the breakup of a famous performing couple; a well-known dancer being replaced by one younger and more exotic; a murder. All juicy fodder for plot, and it's a good thing.

Apr 23, 2004 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

[Wong's] role of Shosho, the red-hot dancing star of London's Piccadilly nightclub, shows her at her dramatic and erotic peak.

Mar 25, 2004 | Rating: 3.5/4

Audience Reviews for Piccadilly

½

This silent film from 1929 was quite a treat. To start with, it has a starring role for Anna May Wong and a supporting role for King Hou Chang that doesn't show them in horribly stereotypical ways, as many other films from this period do. That was the reason Wong had moved to Europe a year before, and she absolutely lights up every scene she's in. I loved how her character is not only a sex symbol, but also strong and intelligent. It's also impressive that at a time in movies and society when many were strongly against 'miscegenation', director Ewald André Dupont clearly indicates that she and a white man have sex, though he cuts away just before an interracial kiss. And in general, the film doesn't condone any racism. There is a scene in a blue collar pub where a white woman comes in off the street and begins dancing with a black man, and he's then kicked out, but here we feel compassion for him, and Dupont's hand in juxtaposing it with the racial dynamic of the main characters. The film plods along at times and you have to be patient with it. It is a little uneven, but you'll notice Dupont using techniques that feel ahead of their time - fast cuts, dissolves, long shots, flashbacks, and some great camera angles. Several times he puts us 'behind the scenes' or in places with common people, which feel (and probably were) highly authentic. Wong's main dance number seems to be a strange mix of Thai and Hawaiian, but it's certainly interesting to watch, and is no more odd than a lot of the other dancing shown in this movie and others from the period. I also loved how Dupont how shot the scene, including a shot of her shadow. The trial at the end seems to drag things on unnecessarily, but includes a nice plot twist. Sure, it all could have been tightened up, but considering it for the time, and the fantastic role and performance Wong gives, it gets a high review score from me.

Antonius Block
Antonius Block

Super Reviewer

Piccadilly is just amazing. Right from the start I was instantly impressed with the costumes and settings, obviously being a silent film set in the period it was made, it felt like I was watching a piece of history, like being put in a time machine for a few hours. The look and feel of the film are worth a ten on their own, to be honest, but in reviewing it, I felt I could only give it a good review if it's other elements, plot, acting etc. were up to scratch, and they were too. In the few silent films I've seen, the acting has been very "stage acting" over the top and dramatic, so I was expecting to see more hams than I'd see in a butcher, but I got some really great performances, I was really impressed, especially by King Ho Chang who played Jim. Right, plot summary then, the film is about the Piccadilly Club losing it's main attraction, a dancer named Victor, and discovering his successor in the club's own scullery. What then follows is a typical love triangle plot, between the new dancer, Shosho, the club owner, Valentine and Victor's old dance partner, Mabel. As simple as the plot sounds, despite being made 77 years ago it manages to not come off clichéd, which is a remarkable achievement. The fact that it is a silent film I think helped it in my eyes. To be honest, if this were made as a "talkie" I think I would have found it harder to like, as the great constant score gave these images a beautiful dreamlike quality and to strip it away for just a few seconds to hear actors speaking dialogue would have certainly destroyed it. Maybe it was just that Piccadilly was the first really decent silent film I've sat down and paid attention to, maybe it's that I was in the mood for it, or maybe it is just a great film.

Cassandra Maples
Cassandra Maples

Super Reviewer

½

A typical romance drama mystery involving dancers who are fighting over a man, nothing new. It's not horrible, but it's not good either.

Aj V
Aj V

Super Reviewer

½

"piccadilly" is anna may wong's attempt to escape american social discrimination of minorities which hinders her career in hollywood, so she flees to germany for the production of "piccadilly" which contributes to her european stardom along with louise brooks' conquering success for "pandora's box". with the relentles indulgence of the "interracial romance" theme, anna mae emanates her noirish glitter of oriental temptress to the utmost level, BUT is "piccadilly" trully a breakthru for the negative racial stereotype then? wong plays a scullery maid who gets fired for dancing upon the kitchen table, but the cabret manager suddenly comes up with a whim to hire her as the new attraction while himself is in torid affair with the major cabret star. then the little chinese woman dresses in the mystic buddist garment, swirling her slim shape eccentricly to enchant the men all around. besides she succeeds in seducing the cabret manager as her prey of love, then the manager's caucasion girlfriend comes along to dissuade her of this affair. then a faint cry occurs, wong's gets slaughtered by her fellow chinese boyfriend who is inflicted with simmering jealousy. privately wong feels quite complacent that she could be able to be an explicit seductress in "piccadilly" without the obstacle of racial segregation. crudely speaking, the stance of this flick's racial politics remains derogatory, and her position is still the sexually compliant oriental female who prawls her way to pander the major white male audience, taking pride at her vindicative sexual triumph as the dialogue suggests: "i wish you give him up, i know you don't love him" "i shall keep the man you cannot keep"...and such defiant attitude would be punished in the 20s american cinema, but the expressionistic german cinema embraces such exotic stimulus with full acceptance. the poster of "piccadilly" shows a bare-chested anna mae brazenly dances along the melody that might be an urgent pursuit of sexual liberation in oriental woman, OR a pimpish exploitation of volutary prostitution from oriental women, as if she's saying: welcome to my chamber room, i'm here naked awaiting you. such whoring image is, of course, banned by chinese government then since it degrades chinese woman as willing mistress for caucasion males that would be considered a national disgrace in the conservative china. the primitive stage of feminism in roaring twenties would be to emulate men with your sexual liberty(be free like a man, make love then leave) as the concept of vivacious flapper as well as "phallic woman" starts to proper in society then. anna may wong is a peculiar case as the chinese flapper, so wong's poise of minority feminism would be to rival white woman with your sex appeal to demonstrate your range of freedom as a suppressed oriental female. but just like the rumination of feminism which is faciliating men with your private santuary, anna may wong's cinematic revolution in europe ends in the same errosive retribution.

Veronique Kwak
Veronique Kwak

Super Reviewer

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