- Frank Borzage: Vol 1: Seventh Heaven / Street Angel review by Steve
By the time of 7th Heaven, Frank Borzage had been making films for ten years which are now almost entirely lost and forgotten. This was a big breakthrough for him. It is a hyper-romantic silent melodrama about the jinxed love affair between a street cleaner and an abandoned waif in the sewers and garrets of Paris.
The film is dominated by the performances of Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor (who is sensational). Chico just desires a better job and Diane dreams of a man and a home. Their relationship gets snagged on his overbearing pride, and her lack of self worth. But when they do fall in love it is with an operatic intensity that is impossible to imagine in a film made today.
There are a few problems. The religious theme is ridiculous, and the subplot on the western front doesn't work. Its greatness rests on the vivid, amplified portrayal of unconditional love and the unreserved performances of its leads. It's an overwhelming experience. The vision of Gaynor appearing through the window in her wedding dress is a heartbreaker.
The myriad social strata are richly portrayed from the sewers up to the dirty attic on the seventh floor where they find their brief happiness among the roofs and chimneys of Paris. The sets are great and Borzage's camera mobile and expressive. It's not without flaws, but this is a classic silent romantic drama, sweetened by a gorgeously sentimental Movietone score.
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