Blog Directory CineVerse: Remembering the whole "Affair"

Remembering the whole "Affair"

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Calling "An Affair to Remember" a weepy chick flick does a disservice to a more than serviceable romantic comedy that also happens to be a tearjerker. That's because this picture can arguably appeal to male viewers just as much as female watchers, thanks in large part to a balanced point of view established between the two romantic leads, the spot-on casting of Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, and a steady hand steering the ship in the form of director Leo McCarey. These were among the takeaways from our CineVerse discussion last evening. Other points covered include the following:

What did you find surprising, different or curiously satisfying about An Affair to Remember?

  • This was made by a director known for making audiences laugh, helming several classic comedies. McCarey, who was known for his long two-shot takes and “idiosyncratic, often spontaneous performances,” per critic Emanuel Levy, displays a deft hand at balancing the right lighthearted and bittersweet tones in this film.
    • “McCarey doesn't go for any of the obvious tricks in bringing his lovers together, instead he exercises tremendous restraint. The whole of An Affair to Remember has an air of calm, and in that calm, McCarey is able to foment feelings of desire, longing, and eventually sadness just by letting the actors be themselves. Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr reportedly improvised a lot of their dialogue in the courtship scenes, and it shows. At times, they seem genuinely surprised at the things that come out of each other's mouth, and the natural interchange between the two makes for honest romantic yearning,” wrote film reviewer Jamie S. Rich.
    • The ending is romantic and satisfying, but it’s also tinged with both sadness and sentimentality. According to Slant reviewer John Lingan: “only a person intent on being fed fairy tales would interpret the ending of McCarey’s film as purely glorious or decisively final. Instead, it’s a bittersweet moment: Two people who changed cataclysmically while together, then painfully while apart, are finally reacquainted and given a rare second chance at a relationship. Terry starts the film as a vibrant girl with a potentially disastrous future, yet she ends it bedridden and profoundly happy. McCarey’s brilliance, and his films’ indelible effect, stem from his recognition that true love is a cousin of wisdom. It’s not a peak that you reach; it’s a series of experiences that help make you a better person.”
  • Despite the fact that there are several implausibilities in the story, the heightened melodramatic moments and infectious credibility of the romance arguably make viewers look past any plot holes and far-fetched elements.
  • The production values are lavish and lasting. This film was shot in CinemaScope using DeLuxe Color, meaning we get a very colorful and lush widescreen film—fitting, considering that the 1950s was known for introducing new widescreen techniques like VistaVision and Cinerama and abandoning black and white for color.
  • Stars Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr convey great chemistry and plausibility as romantic love interests. Note that they were allowed to improv some of their lines together, which made their rapport and onscreen romance more believable. This was also not their first or last pairing—they also teamed up for Dream Wife (1953) and The Grass is Greener (1960).
  • There’s a lot more music and singing in this film than you’d expect; in fact, the movie features four songs, including the titular theme that was a giant hit for Vic Damone.

Themes found in An Affair to Remember

  • The unpredictability and precarious nature of love
  • Good timing is everything in a relationship
  • The repercussions of ignoring your romantic feelings for another
  • Unconditional love and making sacrifices for the greater good
  • Love can happen at any stage of life—even your later years

Other motion pictures this movie makes you think of:

  • Brief Encounter
  • Love Affair, the original this was remade from, also directed by McCarey
  • Love Affair, a 1994 remake
  • Sleepless in Seattle
  • The Shop Around the Corner
  • ‘Til We Meet Again (1940)
  • Mann, a 1999 Bollywood film

Other films directed by Leo McCarey

  • Duck Soup
  • Ruggles of Red Gap
  • The Awful Truth
  • Make Way for Tomorrow
  • Going My Way
  • The Bells of St. Mary’s
  • Various shorts featuring Our Gang and several Laurel and Hardy films

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