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Thursday, 25 July 2013

Classic Film Review: Love Affair (1939)

Love Affair tells the story of playboy Michel Marnet (Charles Boyer) and Terry McKay (Irene Dunne) who meet on a ship and fall in love. Michel wants to prove he can earn a living as a painter so they arrange to meet again in six months if they both feel the same. However, a tragic turn of events stops the meeting from happening.

This is essentially a film of two halves. The first half, set on the ship, is the story of two people trying valiantly not to fall in love because they don't want to hurt their respective partners. When the ship stops in Madeira, Michel visits his grandmother (Maria Ouspenskaya) and Terry goes along with him. This little group of scenes are perhaps the best in the film, including a scene in the chapel which is beautifully shot and creates a wonderful image which is referred to later.

The second half of the film is something of a painful love story. It alters very suddenly and from then on it's difficult to watch and, really, I wanted to throttle Terry for being so stubborn about the whole thing. However, the final scene between her and Michel more than makes up for the frustration preceding it. The dialogue between the two is more complex and more evocative than it has been throughout the whole film - and that's saying something. Boyer and Dunne play this final scene to perfection and I freely admit to shedding a tear.

On the whole, this is an excellent film with the main roles not overplayed by the two leads. It's a sensitive, clever piece that gets slightly sentimental in the second half when a group of orphans take centre stage but, for the most part, it remains a delicate film that is true to its characters.

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