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In a long flashback, a New York publisher is in Venice pursuing the lost love letters of an early-19th-century poet, Jeffrey Ashton, who disappeared mysteriously. Using a false name, Lewis Venable rents a room from Juliana Bordereau, once Jeffrey Ashton's lover, now an aged recluse. Running the household is Juliana's severe niece, Tina, who mistrusts Venable from the first moment. He realizes all is not right when late one night he finds Tina, her hair unpinned and wild, at the piano. She calls him Jeffrey and throws herself at him. The family priest warns Venable to tread carefully around her fantasies, but he wants the letters at any cost, even Tina's sanity. Written by
The Lost Moment is directed by Martin Gabel and adapted by Leonardo Bercovici from the Henry James novel, The Aspern Papers. It stars Robert Cummings, Susan Hayward, Agnes Moorehead and Eduardo Ciannelli. Music is by Daniele Amfitheatrof and cinematography by Hal Mohr.
Lewis Venable (Cummings) is a publisher who travels to Venice in search love letters written by poet Jeffrey Ashton. Insinuating himself into the home of the poets lover and recipient of the letters, Juliana Bordereau (Moorehead), Venable finds himself transfixed by the strangeness of the place and its inhabitants, one of which is Juliana's off kilter niece, Tina (Hayward).
A splendid slice of Gothicana done up in film noir fancy dress, The Lost Moment is hauntingly romantic and ethereal in its weirdness. It's very talky, so the impatient should be advised, but the visuals and the frequent influx of dreamy like sequences hold the attention right to the denouement. The narrative is devilish by intent, with shifting identities, sexual tensions, intrigue and hidden secrets the orders of the day. Cummings is a little awkward and his scenes with Hayward (very good in a tricky role) lacks an urgent spark, while old hands Moorehead (as a centenarian with an outstanding makeup job) and Ciannelli leave favourable marks in the smaller roles. Mohr's (The Phantom of the Opera) photography is gorgeous and bathes the pic in atmosphere, and Amfitheatrof's musical compositions are powerful in their subtleties. As for Gabel? With this being his only foray into directing, it stands as a shame he didn't venture further into the directing sphere. 7/10
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