Piccadilly - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Piccadilly Reviews

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Antonius Block
Super Reviewer
½ December 29, 2016
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.
October 18, 2016
reel good vehicle for Asian star (the first here in the US) she even gets billing over the title
½ August 9, 2014
This one was an enthusiastic recommendation made by a friend. A night club owner replaces his main dancer/paramour with a Chinese girl and starts a romance with her triggering a series of complications. The film of course is kind of a melodrama, something we've seen a lot but the performances make it work. Anna May Wong one of the few non-whites to be have prominent work in this era is especially terrific. The film handles the theme of interracial romance, certainly very controversial in its time, quite surprisingly well considering (though I had some problems with the ending). Overall, a very good film.
June 17, 2013
An Even Larger Career Impediment Than Just Being a Woman

It's strangely disheartening to me to discover that people think Anna May Wong was buried in an unmarked grave. It's true that she isn't buried under the name "Anna May Wong." She was buried under the name Wong Liu Tsong, her birth name. She wasn't considered for the lead role in [i]The Good Earth[/i], a role she wanted a great deal. Instead, the actress cast was German-born (and still alive, at 103!) Luise Rainer. I have often lamented the careers of women who got their start in the pre-Code days and were then hampered by the fact that the roles at which they excelled were no longer available to them. However, it was much worse for actresses like Wong. Take the problems with being a woman at a time when women's roles weren't great and combine them with the problems of being any ethnicity other than white at a time when even Chinese and Japanese characters were usually played by white actors.

Large amounts of the plot are unnecessarily complicated. In short, however, Shosho (Wong) is a dishwasher at a London nightclub. She dances for the rest of the staff; it gets her fired, because she is distracting them from their work. Nightclub dancer Vic (Cyril Ritchard) quits, because he's planning to go off to Hollywood, and it turns out that he was the main draw for the audience, not conceited Mabel (Gilda Gray). Mabel, it's worth noting, who rejected Vic for nightclub owner Wilmot (Jameson Thomas). Wilmot rehires Shosho, this time as a dancer, and she's a huge hit. Mabel is furiously jealous. Also jealous is Shosho's boyfriend, Jim (King Hou Chang). Which is fair enough, because Shosho and Wilmot fall for one another, and Mabel and Jim are both pretty upset about it. There are all sorts of unhappy confrontations back and forth among the various characters, but it doesn't take a genius to work out that things aren't going to end well for Shosho.

Because, you know, Asian woman. While pre-Code only technically refers to talkies, it is true that Hollywood movies were basically unregulated at the time--and this was British and therefore not actually subject to the Code anyway. However, one of the problems in Wong's career was that audiences weren't in general comfortable with watching Wong in romantic relationships with white actors. Even if there had been much in the way of Asian actors (because it still counted as "miscegenation" if they were playing Asians!), they apparently showed her basically no respect. She didn't want to put up with it, and she shouldn't have had to. Then again, who did that leave for her to act opposite? She was hampered in her role opportunities because of the limits on whom she'd be allowed to share the screen with. This may be why I'm not sure I've ever actually seen a movie with her in it before. She had limited opportunities, and she knew it. How could she not?

It's also a bit of a stereotypical Chinese thing going. When Shosho sends Wilmot to buy her a costume, she tells him that the only place to go is a place with the helpful name of "Chinese Restaurant." In what I'm reasonably sure is the London Chinatown, though I admit I'm not all that familiar with London's ethnic divisions. And you know, I'm fine with her sending a little business to the people she cares about; I think the owner of Chinese Restaurant is Jim's uncle, and she still is in a relationship with Jim at that point in the story. However, there's some weird corruption going there. Not on Shosho's side, but on the uncle's, I guess. He just gives off a weird vibe that I can't put my finger on. Maybe it's because he's a silent movie Chinese character. While the roles for female characters were limited, at least they weren't all supposed to be sleazy, and pretty much all the male ones were. Even the so-called heroes had something a little unpleasant to them.

Probably the most ironic moment in the movie is when a couple of people are dancing in a club that is, shall we say, not quite so exclusive as Wilmot's. And they get yelled at, because the woman is white and the man is black. And they don't allow that kind of thing at his club. I have no doubt that Anna May Wong herself spotted the irony, because how could she not? It's okay that Shosho dances for the white people, and it's even okay if Wilmot shows interest in her, though we all know it won't end well. But it's different when it's a Chinese woman and a white man, after all. That isn't threatening (except to Mabel, of course). The social order remains as it was, the more so given the ending of the movie. But if a Chinese man had been the one to make a sensation with a white woman, that would have been considerably more shocking. Unfortunately, that's still true even today; how often do you see Jet Li have a white woman as his romantic lead? Then again, at least Jet Li still has a career, even if it's just making [i]Expendables[/i] movies.
June 6, 2012
It's a wonderfully flawed melodrama and Anna May Wong gets more glamorous time to shine than ever.
September 29, 2011
A tale of jealous lovers, this murder mystery has a nice twist. (I watched the silent version).
Super Reviewer
February 10, 2011
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.
Super Reviewer
½ December 27, 2010
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.
½ December 10, 2009
Didn't quite like that one...
½ November 18, 2009
This British silent was an interesting journey to the jazz-age, circa 1920's London.
German director Ewald André Dupont (uncredited) shows some visual flair with the camera and I love taking in all the details of the furnishing of the sets. But most interesting of all, the film reflects the racial attitudes of the times. Miscegenation may be a dirty word to some - but what is shown (or rather, NOT SHOWN) is very telling...and which probably prevented Anna Mae Wong from becoming a much bigger star.

Valentine Wilmot (Jameson Thomas) notices that his main attraction, dancers Mabel & Vic (Gilda Gray, Cyril Richards) no longer draw the big crowds that once flocked to his popular Piccadilly nightclub. He has to tell the pair that he is seeking fresh talent to liven up his joint. Val's idea of a replacement doesn't go too well with the pair - especially with Mabel when she finds out who their replacement will be - the young chinese scullery maid, Shosho (Anna Mae Wong).

While following up on a drunken customer's (look, it's Charles Laughton in a bit part) complaint about a dirty dish - Val journeys to his scullery and notices one of his dishwashers doing an impromptu dance upon a table. His first impression is to fire the gal for goofing off...but he changes his mind when he notices that she isn't a bad dancer afterall and even sets up a private audition in his office for later that evening, heh!

I suppose it may have more to do with Shosho's skimpy oriental outfit more than her dancing talents (which is besides the point) but she is a hit with the crowd - all to Mabel's dismay. Shosho not only becomes her business competition, but her rival too for Val's romantic affection.

But, Mabel is not the only one perturbed by Shosho's success. There is also Jim (King Hou Chang), Shosho's chinese boyfriend. Passion and jealousies will soon come to a boiling point as the story progresses.

As I mentioned earlier - it's interesting to note what the filmmaker's show or don't show. Not only does the film cut away whenever Val and Shosho attempt to kiss or make love...but even a kiss between Shosho and her chinese boyfriend Jim is hidden underneath folded newspapers!

7.5 / 10
April 27, 2009
Beautifully filmed British silent with the great Anna May Wong as a scullery maid who ascends the social ladder and becomes a prominent dancer at the club where she once toiled. Like a lot of late 20's cinema this film pushes some boundries (we almost get the 1st filmed interracial kiss but the camera cuts away) but per usual succumbs to late melodrama. Whereas the ending doesn't feel true the rest is a wonder and both leads (Wong and Ritchard) are riveting to watch. Gilda Gray is decent but I kept thinking how much she was trying to be Gloria Swanson and not quite pulling it off. Well worth watching!
½ February 27, 2009
24 hour party people 1929. A brilliant document of 20s London nightlife: Stylish, restless, luminescent, cosmopolitan.

The story creaks like a rusty bedspring, but the whole thing looks and feels good enough for that hardly to matter an iota.
February 2, 2009
Pointless, borring, girly, without the slightest hope of being vaguely interesting.

Which is a pity since one scene came out really good. It is set in a pub in London and it addresses directly the rampant racism and segregation dominating all classes of the English society at the time (1920s). It is raw, noir, brilliant. What a shame the rest of the film isn't even half as good.
Super Reviewer
½ October 25, 2008
An American Asian star who gives a standout performance in an European film is quite groundbreaking!

I will also add that it is one of the most interesting silent film of its period because it touches upon many subjects which were normally censored. Director Arnold Bennett clearly showed a modern view of Western European cinema.

Hence, i would recommend this silent film to cinephiles who enjoy the early days of cinema.
Super Reviewer
½ October 5, 2008
"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.
July 16, 2008
The melodrama flirts with unintentional laughs at times, but Dupont's camera work displays remarkable prescience.
Super Reviewer
July 4, 2008
won recognition as a best foreign film by NBR
½ June 24, 2008
Anna May Wong was a natural which is quite evident in this film. She is clearly the better actress of the two leading ladies...and the overall film is pretty hip for it being towards the end of the silent film era. The Brits are definitely not afraid to flaunt it in their addition of the film's poster--nudity? Rock on.
June 6, 2008
Pretty hip for a silent film. Great camera work. Everyone describes Anna May Wong as a clone of Louise Brooks. Based on the few films I've seen of both, I think Wong is the far better actress. Brooks always seems stiff and awkward, whereas Wong has a natural grace and sensuality that really comes through in this film.
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