Piccadilly | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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This remarkable British silent (1929) is special in many ways. Directed by German master E.A. Dupont, with lavish sets and luscious cinematography by two of his compatriots, Alfred Junge and Werner Brandes, it charts the erotic hold of a Chinese beauty (Anna May Wong) over the owner of a palatial London nightclub (Jameson Thomas). He fires her as a dishwasher for distracting coworkers with her tabletop dancing, then hires her back as a featured performer, to the consternation of his mistress (Gilda Gray). Scripted by Zola-inspired novelist Arnold Bennett, with significant roles played by Cyril Ritchard and Charles Laughton, this is far ahead of its time in its treatment of both race and gender. Dupont has an original way of employing camera movement to suggest erotic chemistry between characters, and Wong, who even provoked a rave notice from the great Walter Benjamin, is as memorable and confident as Louise Brooks was in the films of G.W. Pabst, made around the same time. 92 min. David Drazin will provide live piano accompaniment, and Graham Russell Gao Hodges, author of Anna May Wong: From Laundryman's Daughter to Hollywood Legend, will introduce the Saturday and Sunday screenings. Gene Siskel Film Center.

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