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A Parisian sewer worker longs for a rise in status and a beautiful wife. He rescues a girl from the police, lives with her in a barren flat on the seventh floor, and then marches away to war. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
There's nothing really wrong with this movie. And there are some positive things.
On both the positive and the negative side is French actress Simone Simon. She is radiantly beautiful throughout the movie. When she appears at the window in her wedding gown, you truly believe you are seeing an angel. But her command of English is so limited, and the dialog for her often so weak, that she isn't able to make much of an impression as an actress. When she chases Gale Sondergaard out of the room with a belt in a reversal of a scene early in the movie, she doesn't convey any anger, or triumph. She's good at smiling radiantly, but that's about it.
Steward does his usual fine job, but again, he has a poor script to work with.
Gale Sondegaard gives perhaps the most vivid characterization in the movie as the evil sister. She is truly terrifying, an actress who could do so many very different things all very well.
Too often, though, the script sinks, or comes close to sinking, this picture.
I much preferred the 1927 silent. I'm no great fan of silent movies, but that one is astoundingly beautiful and very deeply moving, perhaps because there is no weak script to get in the way, perhaps because certain of the scenes are just filmed better, such as the first night "together" of Chico and Diane in his seventh-floor apartment, the 7th heaven of the title.
Even if you don't generally care for silent pictures, give the 1927 version a try.
Meanwhile, this one is fine for one viewing, but I doubt I'll watch it again.
Actually, I did watch it again - though it took two sessions to get through it. I still agree with everything I wrote before, though I will add one thing: Especially in the early parts of the movie, there is some beautiful camera work, old-fashioned close-ups and effective shots of the staircase that keeps twisting and turning as it rises to that 7th heaven. The director, Henry King, had made a lot of movies in the silent era, and he knew how to film light and shadow poetically. It doesn't save the movie, but it's worth noticing if you decide to sit through this disappointing movie anyway.
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