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piccadilly (with igor outkine)

Piccadilly

The monthly silent film showing by Filmphonics at Hackney Attic (the top floor of the fantastic Hackney Picturehouse) was British film Piccadilly from 1929.

You may remember that we went to see The Cabinet of Dr Caligari last month, with live score by Minima.  I had never heard of Piccadilly before, and was looking forward to seeing a late 1920’s London!  This time, the live score was performed by Igor Outkine, a Russian accordianist.

Piccadilly is a slightly odd film really – it follows the story of Valentine Wilmot, owner of the successful Piccadilly club in Piccadilly Circus.  A lot of their success is said to be down to dancers Mabel and Vic.

On the night that we join them, a disgruntled customer causes a disruptive fuss about a dirty plate which sends Wilmot scurrying off to the kitchen and scullery in turn to find out how this happened.  Whilst there, he sees a Chinese dishwasher (Shosho) dancing on the table.  He fires her immediately.

Meanwhile, the disruption to his dance has vexed Vic so much, that he plans to leave Piccadilly for Hollywood, and tries to get Mabel to go with him, declaring his love.  Mabel however is already in love with Wilmot, and tells him no. Vic then goes to quit, but Wilmot fires him first.

The film then follows the story of how Wilmot encourages Shosho to dance at the club, the conditions she enforces and increasing Mabel’s jealousy.

The film includes scandal, racism, dancing and eventually murder.

There are lots of close-up shots of eyebrow-raising (mainly from Valentine), sly looks (mainly from Shosho)  and shock and horror (mainly from Mabel).

The whole film felt quite long, and there were parts that just seemed really random, with long shots of not very much, giving no progression to the story – in fact seeming to get in the way of it at times.  I often found that I was busy giggling at some random thing that someone had done in a rather bizzarre manner.

Igor Outkine played an accordian the like I had never ssen before, and he told us right at the start that he was improvising. His accordian was an electric one (I assume), and sounded of many, many different instruments, from drums to piano to trumpet – which was very effective.

However, I am not sure that Piccadilly is a particularly easy film to improvise a soundtrack to, as it flicks through emotions and moods rather quickly and has a LOT of scene cut-aways (you will see what I mean in the clip below).  It was also almost TWO HOURS long and he played admirably without a single break.  Pretty amazing really.

Anyway – for £20 including a rather bloody good homemade burger, chips and coleslaw and a nice glass of wine / £9 without food & drink (or £18 / £7 for members like me!) it was a really good evening out, and we will probably be going along to the next one.  The Great White Silence on Sunday 24th June.

I will leave you with this. Charles Laughton played ‘the disgruntled diner’ in the film.  And if I hadn’t seen this, I never would have known that Monty Python’s Mr Creosote was actually BASED on someone already dreamed up.  He was, wasn’t he?

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