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The Seventh Sin (1957)

| Drama | 1958 (Austria)
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Paul Duvelle
Françoise Rosay ...
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Any Sin But This One Could Be Forgiven!

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Drama

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1958 (Austria)  »

Also Known As:

Hongkong war ihr Schicksal  »

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(Westrex Recording System)

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2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Although this was filmed in CinemaScope, for twenty years, Turner Classic Movies has repeatedly shown it only in pan/scan. See more »

Goofs

While the picture takes place between 1945-1950 in mainland China (see the Republic flag in the hospital), the clothes (dresses, shoes and hairdo) that Eleanor Parker wears are contemporary to when the picture was made in the mid-1950s. Correction - the novel was written in 1925 making the film set in the 1920's NOT the 1940's. See more »

Connections

Version of The Painted Veil (2006) See more »

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User Reviews

Absolving the Sin after the Seventh Veil drops
23 March 2004 | by (Maryland, USA) – See all my reviews

Somerset Maugham's taste for exotic locales is used to good purpose in this story of how a doctor's wife "finds" herself after an extramarital affair. I happened to catch this film half-way through (missed Parker's affair with Aumont), however, the Chinese locale and the level of acting kept me watching until the end, especially as I had just seen John Ford's "Seven Women" recently on the TCM channel. The question is, why did Ford's movie fail (for me), and this one succeed? Both were shepherded by distinguished directors, and the casting in both is impressive --so should we fault the script? In fact, one might say that the Neame & Minnelli team elicted better performances than did Ford in his China setting. Despite the impressive cast and Bancroft's intensity, everything about Ford's film seemed "wrong," and the setting in China was totally incidental to the struggle between the two leading ladies. In "Seventh Sin," however, Parker's struggle seemed very real, despite her cool demeanor (what would Deborah Kerr have done with this role?), and her inter-action, and later friendship with the Mother Superior appears honestly won.

Unlike another reviewer, I did not think that Bill Travers' performance was wooden. His reticent honesty works well here. It is a decided contrast to the stagy performance he gave with Jenifer Jones in "Barretts of Wimpole Street," where he seemed to shout through his role (this movie failed for me on other counts, too). In "Seventh Sin," the casting of George Sanders as the sympathetic local who marries a Chinese works quite well as a foil to the bluff but kind Travers, and for once, Sanders acts against type and gives a commendable, unmannered performance. In fact he is quite likable and also mastered some Chinese for the role. His Chinese wife is not credited, but I found her acting to be stiff and lacking in warmth or charm; her accent and the year 1957 when the movie was filmed made it likely that she was had spent at least a decade in Taiwan, rather than being born in the "imperial" family that Sanders claims and escaping to Hongkong.

As for the Chinese/Hong Kong setting, one wonders whether it could have been interchangeable with Algeria, or Africa. Was it incidental to the plot, as one could argue with "Seven Women"? No, I don't think so.

A character like the one Parker portrays had to discover her inner resources in a foreign country, and among persons who were less than amenable to her -- the Chinese, whose language she didn't understand, and the sisters of the convent -- definitely an essential feature of the Maugham original. Francoise Rosay is particularly convincing as the Mother Superior; this is a role that cuts to the heart of the character (unlike Margaret Leighton's role vis a vis Anne Bancroft's in "Seven Women"). The Mother Superior is not a one-dimensional person, but someone who has lived and who ultimately is the one who understands Travers' final words. She is able to interpret them correctly for the Parker, thereby absolving the guilty wife of her personal anguish. This is a very moving way to end the story, and contrasts with the heroic but blatant staging of Bancroft's suicide in "Seven Women." These parallels may not seem obvious to others, but they kept cropping up for me as I watched it.

I think for those who are interested in how China/Hong Kong is presented in Western film (compare for example, with "Love is a Many Splendored Thing" or "Sand Pebbles"), and for the rendering of stories by literary authors such as Maugham, "Seventh Sin" carries a sincerity of tone which makes it notable. Also, anything directed by Ronald Neame ("Blithe Spririt," "Major Barbara," "This Happy Breed" and other distinguished films), not to mention Vincenti Minnelli, makes it is definitely worth a look.


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