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The Farmers Wife (1928)

A fairly charming comedy-drama about a man Mr. Sweetland (Jameson Thomas) failing to find a wife after he is widowed. He ends up choosing his maid that's been beside him all long, played by Lilian Hall-Davis. I enjoyed some great comedic moments in the film, either from Gibb Mclaughlin's old man character getting his nose in all the food at a dinner party, or when Mr. Sweetland gets denied the second time and in the midst of the chaos the woman's maid comes out with melted ices on a pan.

These silent movies are all very simple stories but that require a lot of going into the mind of the character, and it's done very cleverly. Hitchcock once more uses a lot of objects to symbolize people. In this particular film it's the rocking chair symbolizing his wife, which at points in the film Lilian Hall-Davis sits in, once to foreshadow and at the end for Mr. Sweetland's realization.

Just like in Downhill, where Hitchcock divides up the movie with visuals, marking the end of a "chapter" with Roddy going down the elevator, Hitchcock makes each story point very clear, and establishes the list of women to bookend the sequences. At first we see a close up of the list, but later on, once Hitchcock has given us that information already, Mr. Sweetland subsequently just crosses out the pad in the wide shot, and the audience has enough information for that to register.

Another very cool sequence is a montage in the beginning, after the wife just dies. There is a montage of laundry in just two shots, both dollying from left to right: drying the clothes and then hanging them up, with slow dissolves glueing them together.

I also liked an unusually long wide shot at a dinner party in the beginning, where we see everyone talking amongst themselves, as they take their time all to sit down. There was something charming about seeing the whole action through. It took it's time to tell the idea. Also the first real extreme dolly in (acting like a zoom) right into a close up of the desserts on a table. What precedes that shot is a close up of this boy as he enters a later dinner party. The confections are the first thing he sees.

What still continues to charm me in these silent pictures are the economy of the storytelling, often using each shot to explain one idea the clearest way possible. Hitchcock will even make you look certain places at certain times within group shots, where first you'll look at two people in one spot, then the movement and lighting will bring you to another two people to look at their action. Everything was all choreographed and clearly well thought out. Movies simply told are great to study because every so often it's possible to think a few shots ahead and find out whether or not you were right. Just the challenge of making a movie without dialogue seems to be a crucial exercise in directing. The challenge: "how can I show this without lines?" Then to understand when Hitchcock decides to put in the dialogue and why. Most times one line of dialogue will act as the premise of the scene, and then another one for the climax of the scene, usually accompanied by a few close-ups if need be. When resources are so limited, there's a reason for every shot' and that's where Hitchcock excels.

There were a lot of nice moments in this film but it wasn't the most exciting or guided one. The story seemed to take a roundabout way of getting there, a few times cutting to a random gag with the drunkard Ash (Gordon Harker). Although they were funny, sometimes they weren't always necessary. That was my take on the first viewing at least. That being said, I always learn something watching these silent films.

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