24 January 2009 | winner55
Hitchcock was one of cinema's most aggressively experimental film makers, a fact largely unnoticed because, first, he worked largely in known genres rather than straight drama, and also because many of his experiments worked so well, they were adopted everywhere as conventions of film making. But when his experiments fail, they scream out for attention.
Champagne is one of the latter, pretty much a failure in terms of everything but the camera work. The main story is the the main problem. There's nothing about the characters' little problem here - and it's a very little problem when you think about it - that would lead us to grow concerned about their resolution to it. That gives us an unfortunate opportunity to ask whether we actually find the characters appealing - and we don't. The father is vile, his friend is vile, the lover is an airhead, the daughter is an airhead. So we're left with more than an hour of vile airheads trying to determine what virtue among the wealthy might be. As if they could possibly know.
Strong, intelligent women do not make much of an appearance in Hitchcock's silent films; the young Hitchcock had an ambiguous attitude towards women, whom he frequently presented as both victims of male cruelty and simpering imbeciles. That's very much in evidence here.
And Hitchcock struggled artistically with what may have been a real personality problem his whole life - the one word that can link all of his films is 'paranoia.' No one can be fully trusted in a Hitchcock film, making his world a treacherous place, even in his 'comedies' - the real "Trouble with Harry" (in that film) is not that he's dead, but that nobody gives a dam' that he is.
This paranoia informs this supposed comedy throughout, as well, and in fact defines its experimental nature - Hitchcock repeatedly paints his characters with ominous shadings, setting up scenes of potential violence, potential madness, potential rape; fortunately none of which ever happens - but we're supposed to laugh at this?! My sense is that this was the question Hitchcock wanted to raise, that's the experiment going on here. But nobody really wants that question raised, answering it doesn't give us a very good time.
Lesser Hitchcock, to be sure.