Monday, 21 October 2013

Review - An Affair to Remember (1957 - Dir. Leo McCarey)

Less than a week to go to the celebration of all things bloody, dirty, greasy and a little bit spurty that is Celluloid Screams, I thought I better watch something pleasant before I get pummelled. An Affair to Remember it is then. (And yes, that is an excessively airbrushed DVD cover.)

Nickie Ferrante (Cary Grant) is a renowned gigolo but - much to the distress of ladies across the globe - he's finally settling down and getting married. On a cruise to meet up with his fiancee he meets up with Terry McKay (Deborah Kerr) who's not interested in his winking and clicking antics. She's got a partner too, you see, and she's always been very faithful. Once you know that, the title tells you pretty much where this is all going. 

Now, I know I keep banging on about stories in films but the first half is a prime example of good storytelling. It may initially seem to be slow but every scene takes our two main characters a little step closer to falling in love. So even though the editing is laid back and the scenes are quite long, the story driving the film cracks along at a fair old pace. Once they're in love at around the halfway point, the story has to throw a problem at them, a pretty big problem, and it manages that with ease.

Saying that, the second half isn't quite as engaging. There is the small issue of Terry's partner being far too understanding about her indiscretion. But the main problem is how it morphs into a musical at certain points, the most irritating event being when a sugary-sweet band of children appear who overact and oversing their hearts out as if they're on Songs of Praise. My gran would probably have liked these bits. I hated them. Thankfully, they only murder two tunes and the final one is sweetened by a little girl almost tripping up and smashing her face into a bed. Oh come on, everyone's laughed at way worse on You've Been Framed

The final scene is another lesson in how to write something that absolutely drips with subtext. It gives Grant and Kerr loads to work with and they positively shine. The two main actors perform admirably throughout. Cary Grant is his usual Cary Grant persona and is as charming and likeable as ever. I'm not as familiar with Deborah Kerr, but based on her performance here - anyone who can match Cary Grant is doing well - I'm going to have a look at some of her other stuff. As a bonus An Affair to Remember does the usual polite thing beloved of old films. It gets to the point, then finishes. No messing about. 

Edit out the musical scenes and this would gain a much higher rating. But for a slice of pleasantness you could do far worse: two great actors, a touching story and one of the most unexpected ways to film a screen kiss that I've seen. Now that I'm all cleansed, I'm ready for some serious horror...

If you like this you could also try:
The Philadelphia Story, From Here to Eternity, Black Narcissus, The Grass is Greener.

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