Fred and Emily Hill are leading a boring life in London. They receive a big inheritance by a rich relative and now they can realize all their dreams. They leave for a cruise behaving as rich people....but this is the beginning of the end. Richness makes they soon forget their love and family.Written by
Claudio Sandrini <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Rich? not really, but certainly strange, and a bit humorous
Rich and Strange or East of Shanghai, is a British romantic comedy dating from the transitional period between silent and sonic film. It was not very popular at the box office, but remains one of the director's (Alfred Hitchcock) favorite works from the period. The reasons seem obvious enough. Unlike the classic Hitchcock thriller/mystery/comedy "The Lady Vanishes" released several years later, Rich and Strange was an adaptation of a semi-comedic novel which was not plot-heavy but did rely on equally strong characterization. Hitchcock took the change of pace for a ride, and played with visual experiments, jokes and even visual metaphors which, if you notice them and think about them, actually enhance character development.
Some reviewers have complained about the use of placecards - actually I think this was intended to enhance the comedic aspect of the film. Take a look back two years at Hitccock's "Blackmail" for comparison. This film was originally intended and partially shot silent. Hitchcock neither used placecards nor did he need them to convey his points in Blackmail.
There are some classic bits of Hitchcock camera-work here. During meaningless conversations, meaningless framing is used seemingly to mock the action of the film itself. The classic example of this is a pair of symmetrically arranged scenes where two of the main characters are walking to and from a social event on a cruise ship, blathering away, while the camera follows their feet and Emily's (Joan Barry) dragging dress. Jarring, yet humorous!
Joan Barry's stunning and adorable portrayal of Emily -our protagonist- is a bit of a perverse male fantasy - she is beautiful, intelligent (when she needs to be) and undervalues herself terribly - so her loyalty to a husband deserving of much much less is a bit exasperating. She is married to a whining, opportunistic, bore named Fred, and becomes romantically attracted to the charming Commander Gordon. The story boils down to this: Emly and Fred lead a life which causes Fred to whine (but this, it becomes clear later, is genetic and part of the fiber of his being).
One night, they receive an early inheritance and decide to take a cruise around world and live the good life. Fred, however, remains the miserable lout he was at the beginning, but adds to his follies alcoholism, philandering, and seasickness. Money does not cure everything - a bit of cliché, but, with Rich and Strange, it doesn't end there.
All of the acting is quite good, though as some have noted, it is sometimes over-the-top (perfectly appropriate for a comedy, IMO).
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