The Lost Moment 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.
The Lost Moment (1947)
Actor Martin Gabel’s first (and only) directorial effort is rich with atmosphere and Gothic artiness. Based loosely on the Henry James novel, “The Aspern Papers,” the film follows the efforts of an ambitious publisher, Lewis Venable (Robert Cummings) to locate the lost love letters of an 18th century poet named Jeffrey Ashton. He believes the letters to be in the possession of Ashton’s aged former lover, Juliana Bordereau(Agnes Moorehead).
Under the pretense of being a writer in search of inspiration, he manages to rent a room in the ghostly Bordereau home in Venice, much to the dislike of a mysterious young woman (Susan Hayward) who is said to be Juliana’s niece, Tina. Things become complicated when, one night, he is drawn by strange music to the opposite side of the house. There, he finds Tina at the piano. She believes she is Juliana and that Lewis is her lover, Jeffrey Ashton, taking the film in a somewhat otherworldly direction.Those who make a habit of reading between the lines may suggest that Cummings’ protagonist has opened an esoteric door to the past as he enters the room, finding what is perhaps a young Juliana in a dream-like state.
It’s easy to say that Susan Hayward is excellent in this film, if for no other reason than the fact that her beauty is astounding. In addition, the camera angles and lighting pay immense flattery. Though, in fairness, her performance is more than adequate and the stark contrast between the character’s two personalities is quite real.
Also worth a mention is Agnes Moorehead’s eerie portrayal of the century-old lady of the house who never sleeps, and Daniele Amfitheatrof’s moody, yet seemly musical score.
“The Lost Moment” deserves more than just a look.