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Film

'The Lost Moment' Is Daft, But Not a Masterpiece

Moments lost, careers not taken.


The Lost Moment

Director: Martin Gabel
Cast: Susan Hayward, Robert Cummings
Distributor: Olive Films
Year: 1947
USDVD release date: 2014-07-08

In 1947, Susan Hayward starred in two films produced by Walter Wanger. Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman, a critical and popular success, scored her first Oscar nomination. The Lost Moment, based on a Henry James story, flopped in a big way; it was the real smash-up. No surprise that Hayward thereafter eschewed literary period items and concentrated on spunky heroines in gritty contemporary stories. The film's failure may also explain why it's the only film directed by Martin Gabel, who served as associate producer on the other film. It's possible that we lost a very interesting director, as we can judge now that Gabel's film is on DVD and Blu-Ray in a very good-looking print—these are lost moments, indeed.

Gabel is an actor best known for Broadway and marriage to Arlene Francis, a panelist on TV's What's My Line, on which he also appeared from time to time. He'd been a member of Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre. Any Wellesian influence must be a matter of speculation, but The Lost Moment is provocative. The acting isn't realistic but artificial and expressionistic, and the entire project has an uncanny, overheated, gothic atmosphere, with Daniele Amfiteathrof's music unleashing eerie ghostly vocals as Hal Mohr's high-contrast black-and-white camera glides richly around Alexander Golitzen's lavishly decaying sets, all representing the claustrophobic Venice mansion of a spidery, 105-year-old spinster.

The story is told in flashback by Lewis Venable (Robert Cummings), a publisher who lies his way into the house to find the legendary letters of a vanished poet who loved the young Juliana. She's now the sleepless crone who never leaves her room or her chair, but hears everything in the house, as if she has become the house. She's played rather astonishingly by a withered and bent Agnes Moorehead (another Mercury alumnus) under liters of makeup, and we hardly ever get a good look at her, which only underlines the multiple mysteries of story and style. Also in the house is angry niece Tina (Hayward, who acts like she's channeling Wanger's wife, Joan Bennett), an outright looney tune who occasions wild revelations.

The fevered imaginings of Leonardo Bercovici's script shares with James' story little beyond the three-person set-up in Venice. Even the title is different, for James wrote The Aspern Papers, and this movie is about someone named Ashton. James' story is an atmospheric but credible work of psychological realism, while this movie would lead anyone to imagine it must be another high-gothic Turn of the Screw. Where James' ending is plausible and revealing, the film's resolution combines literally overheated melodrama with lame Hollywoodisms, thereby just dodging the category "daft masterpiece" while remaining daft. Still, it manages to convey James' fustian ambiguities even while departing from his narrative.

Bercovici was having a flurry of notable work. At the same time, he worked on the script of The Bishop's Wife, from a Robert Nathan novel, and presumably this led to his adaptation (though not final script) of Nathan's Portrait of Jennie, one of the era's magnificent films. As David Thomson points out, it's also about the grip of the past. Also at this time, Bercovici worked on another history-haunted melodrama, Kiss the Blood Off My Hands, for another Welles legatee, director Norman Foster.

In freely adapting James' novella, Bercovici redeemed the story's masquerading scoundrel by splitting his role in twain and assigning his worst qualities to the other fellow (John Archer), who's introduced literally in the same boat with Venable, or the same gondola, and then becomes his wicked shadow. Eduardo Ciannelli wanders through as a wise old priest, and there's peculiar behavior from a sly, put-upon servant (Joan Lorring) and her dour mother (Minerva Urecal). It's all splendidly unhealthy, and a product of that magical lost moment in Hollywood when the burgeoning style of film noir was colliding with women's films and costumed thrillers.

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Music

The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

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White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

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Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

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7

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

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