For week 5 of my year of Hitchcock I watched the marvel which is Champagne… a light and bubbly comedy.
The basic story is reasonably simple. A millionaire’s heiress elopes to Paris with a lover whom her father is convinced to be a gold-digger. The millionaire decides to teach his daughter a lesson and convinces her he has lost all his money on the stock-market. This reality shock means she is forced to get a job working at the bar which she used to visit as a guest. There are some delightful comic moments throughout but not enough to hide the lack of substance within the story.
The best part of this film has to be the sets and costumes, which show the upper-class world of the time, exactly how I would imagine it. The women’s extravagant dresses just fit perfectly as do the men’s dinner suits. These costumes are highlighted all the more by having several jokes based around them including a rather good one involving flowers. There is also a glorious tilting set of the boat, which tilts regularly so as to trick the audience into believing it is really moving.
Other good points include lead actress’s Betty Balfour’s performance and mesmerizing on-screen presence. She pulls of the ditsy rich girl performance spectacularly and is quite incredible, also her petty arguments with her lover make for some fine comedy.
In terms of Hitchcockian techniques this film is not particularly auteuristic. There are a few moments in which we see the best of Hitchcock, namely the fact that the film opens and closes with a point-of-view shot through a champagne glass, this is voyeurism at its foremost; it is just a shame just like in his earliest film The Pleasure Garden, Hitch has not yet figured out how to use this point-of-view to its full effectiveness.
There is also an interesting scene in which the girl gets mugged, the entire sequence is a single shot of just her legs which I found to be quite interesting and original as well as probably the most tense moment within the film.
The bad sides of this film are that for long periods it is dull and tiresome with not much going on other than winging and worrying about having no money or being caught. The story has no real tension and is all rather predictable; I think it was supposed to be a shocking twist that her father had pulled a trick on her however I found it too obvious.
The lack of tension is the major issue which I have with this film as that is what Hitchcock is most famous for it is sad to see him fail with no opportunity within the script. There are also lots of title-card something I was surprised by after my recent viewings in which Hitchcock tried to keep them minimal. In this film I guess Hitchcock couldn’t find a way to tell the story visually so decided to interrupt the action every ten seconds with a title card which frankly ruined the flow and pacing of the entire film.
There is no Hitchcock cameo in this movie.
Champagne is a tough film to rate; it is probably the least Hitchcockian film I have seen so far and at moments the most boring; however there are several scenes, which stand out to me as more memorable than the entirety of some of the other films. I therefore conclude this film to be awarded two Hitch’s (it would have been three but lack of auteuristic qualities make it hard to identify as a Hitchcock film).