An Affair to Remember (Leo McCarey, 1957)

14Feb12

Cary Grant (Nickie Ferrante), Deborah Kerr (Terry McKay). Screenplay by Delmer Daves et al. Directed by Leo McCarey. Rating: U. Running time: 119 minutes.

Textbooks on classic cinema, encyclopedia entries on the history of romance in film and dictionary definitions of ‘charming’ all exclude An Affair to Remember at their peril. That’s the consensus, and with only minor reservations I can vouch for its validity. I should disclose my belief which is barely a bias that Cary Grant is better than Bogart and probably everyone in the pre-Brando era, and finally watching him in a film that’s firstly a drama rather than a comedy does nothing to change that. Still suave, of course, and amusing. But also effortlessly sincere and deep in being able to appear lovestruck and then lovesick, with all the joy and pain that comes with it. This is the type of tale of an affair that, conceptually at least, Allen has often strove to film. It attempts to convey so lightly how falling in love with another can seem guiltless because it feels unavoidable, perhaps not even welcomed. And this idea runs through the veins of the rising romance, as two tied-up strangers meet on a ship, and soon yearn to break free of their prior shackles.

The second half lost a lot of the serenity of the first, for me. When they return to their normal lives and we wait for the inevitable moving reunion, the narrative gets tangled up in subplot scenes we cannot care for, and there’s a desire for speeding events up that it’s hard to ignore. But ultimately it’s sweetness and heartache epitomised, carefully giving expression to the range of emotions attached to that crazy little thing called love.

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