This early Hitchcock mixes cynical humor with sexual horror as it follows Ivor Novello's descent from upstanding British schoolboy to Montmartre gigolo, the downhill road laid for him by a series of scheming women. Auteurists will find plenty of evidence of the director's characteristic formal audacity: false flashbacks, upside-down POV shots, massive foreground objects dwarfing the characters behind them. The film reaches a psychological and stylistic climax with delirious, nightmarishly vivid visions of an evil feminine conspiracy. (“I wanted to embody the dream in the reality, in solid, unblurred images,” Hitchcock later said.) Such scenes have led some to claim Downhill is an early example of Hitchcock's supposed misogyny, but credit for the film's suspicion of the female sex is due at least partly to Novello, who co-wrote the source play with Constance Collier under the appropriate pseudonym “David L'Estrange.”

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