The Seventh Veil (Compton Bennett, 1945)

As the crippled failed musician Nicholas intently, and nearly obsessively, watches his ward, and gifted piano student, Francesca during her first professional performance, comparisons to “Citizen Kane” become easy – not just in this scene, but with Nicholas’s near-abusive, and at the very least possessive, treatment of Francesca being comparable to Charles Foster Kane’s treatment of his bride Susan in general.  Difference is, turns out I much prefer the dulcet tones of James Mason to the blustery ostentatiousness of Orson Welles, because Mason’s Nicholas comes off as the consummate elegant gentleman, making his misogyny and mother issues and abuse of Francesca, and his intentions in general, that much more of an intriguing mystery to decipher, arguably rivaling the intriguing mystery that is Anton Walbrook’s obsessive ballet impresario Lermontov in “The Red Shoes.”  What’s this guy’s angle?  They’re merely second cousins, why revolve his entire life around making this girl’s life miserable and shaping her into an impossibly talented, but soulless, pianist?  Project his own failed musical aspirations onto the much more talented Francesca, perhaps?  Try to act like a father figure while barely concealing a weird kind of attraction?  Just use her as an outlet for his hatred of women (when she first comes under his care, he practically brags that he despises having women in his home, and she’s one of the first)?  Tough to figure, since Nicholas is so deplorable, yet James Mason has an impossibly elegant disposition, but really, that’s about where this film’s ascendance over Kane comes to an end.  Even when not comparing the two films, as to compare this or nearly any film to Welles’s orgy of technique and filmmaking deftness would simply be unfair, there isn’t that much that stands out apart from trying to figure Nicholas out, and some vague suspense in the concert scenes (will she faint or do something rebellious?  even if she doesn’t, the music selection’s still great).  Francesca and the other men in her life who inevitably fall in love with her are cardboard cutouts, the flashback-utilizing story structure doesn’t add anything, and the ending is downright stunning and startling in its misogyny, at least as I read it.  Francesca’s desire to move apart from the controlling Nicholas is admirable, and you do get caught up in her plight as Nicholas’s cruel treatment of her is subtle yet truly psychological and compelling, but that ending, after a film’s worth of a protagonist’s enduring mental and emotional abuse, really makes me wonder whether this film’s actually putting up its heroine as a mere object to be saved or even won as a prize by men, men like Nicholas.

7/10

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1 comment so far

  1. Your Mamas Cunt on

    Hey jerkoff no one cares about your fucking reviews. Shut the fuck up bastard.


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