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An Affair To Remember (1957) Print E-mail
Monday, 14 February 2011
ImageFor a majority, “An Affair To Remember” is known more for its part in other films than it is known as film on its own.  The most popular revival of this film in mainstream culture is in the film, “Sleepless In Seattle.”  The film uses the premise, and even clips from the film to tell its own story.  Unfortunately, for “An Affair To Remember,” “Sleepless In Seattle” seems to work much better.

However, in 1957 Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr lit up the screen to bring a tragic love affair to life.  As with most films of its age the story is contrived and ends abruptly after taking so long to get there.  But back then it was more about the journey than the destination.

Cary Grant portrays Nickie, a playboy of sorts that has women falling at his feet.  Deborah Kerr portrays Terry, a socialite that is progressive for a woman in her day and age.  The two meet aboard a cruise ship sailing from France to New York.  Nickie finds Terry irresistible due to her nonchalant nature.  While most women throw themselves at him, she tries to keep her distance.  Both are promised to another; Nickie to a wealthy tycoon in New York and Terry to an investment banker.  But neither seems very happy about it.

When the two meet aboard the cruise ship it is a denial of love at first sight.  Terry warns Nickie to keep his distance.  The two mustn’t be seen together as to avoid gossip.  However, the ship’s passengers are not blind to the chemistry between them.  The turning point for the couple occurs when Terry, unbelieving that Nickie has a grandmother, accompanies him to his grandmother’s villa.  It is there that moments of quiet and looks of intensity spark their passion.

Back aboard the ship they ponder what they are to do, still keeping their distance.  They decide at the last minute that in six months, should the two still feel for each other, that they should meet atop the Empire State Building (this is where “Sleepless In Seattle” fits in by the way).  This would give Nickie enough time to call things off with his fiancée and begin painting again, trying to raise enough money to support Terry.
The film skips ahead and brings us to Terry who is anxious to get to the top of the Empire State Building.  By freak coincidence we hear a scream and know that she has been in an accident.  Meanwhile, Nickie is waiting until close for Terry to show up.  This is about where the film falls apart until the climatic final scene.  The film lingers on with Terry, paralyzed, at least for the time being, carrying on her life.  She teaches underprivileged children music.  Meanwhile, Nickie continues to paint.  Where the film falls apart is the lack of realism in what would happen next.  Why doesn’t Terry contact Nickie?  Why doesn’t Nickie try to locate Terry?  The film instead hinges on the brief, and usually forgotten mention that should one not show up then no questions need be asked.  That is a copout to draw the movie in a sappy direction.  Also, being relatively famous, why wasn’t the accident in the newspaper?  How did Nickie not hear about it?

Despite the hour that it takes to get there, the film finally reaches its inevitable reunion point.  This is known as one of the most powerful emotionally-charge scenes in cinema.  However, I found it to be abrupt.  The revelation comes and goes all to quickly.  I’m so sorry and then The End.  It doesn’t provide enough time for deep emotions to get stirred up.  However, once you know it is coming I’m sure there are those out there that will build it up until they can release the cries at the moment the revelation occurs.

“An Affair To Remember” struggles here and there.  However, it is still one of the most powerful love stories that Hollywood has produced, even if it is a bit contrived at points.  Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr both deliver powerful performances, and at times often face off, leaving the audience wondering who is supposed to be in command of the sequence at hand.

In what was still a rarity of the day, “An Affair To Remember” comes to Blu-ray with its original widescreen, full-color image.  The aspect ratio remains in 2.35:1 and the encode is AVC.  This is another marvelous video transfer by Fox for its catalog titles.  This is a very good supplement to “All About Eve.”  The image is clean and nicely restored.  There is no disturbing noise reduction to speak of, and dust and specks never make themselves known.  The color is tremendous for its age.  Just to be clear, there are shift in color intensity during cross dissolves and slightly at other moments.  This is not an issue with the transfer but simply a limitation in the technology of the day.  While it may disturb some, I found it to provide a great retro-quality film to classic cinema.  Details and edges are strong throughout.  There are a few soft moments that stem from the original production.  Both background and foregrounds are crisp for the most part.  You will not be disappointed with this transfer.

Despite the use of Fox’s Cinemascope format, capable of surround sound, this film was released originally with a stereo track.  That stereo audio track is presented here in a lossy Dolby Digital format.  As with pretty much ever film the primary audio track is a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 one.  It is kind of a toss up on this one whether I actually like the surround track.  There are a few instances in which there are some discrete effects in the rear channels and they kind of throw one for a second.  For example, there is a knock on the door that is almost entirely in the left surround channel.  This wouldn’t surprise anyone one in a modern film, but it feels a bit out of place in “An Affair To Remember.”  Luckily, the surround track generally serves to simply expand the score.   While the score is not as clean as in “All About Eve,” it does open the soundfield just a touch.  Dialogue is clear and always upfront.  There is an instance or two of soft dialogue falling by the wayside.  In terms of restoration, the track is quite good.  The frequency response is what you would expect to hear for a 1957 film.  There are a few instances of apparent digital alteration and one or two dropouts. Still, overall this is a nicely preserved audio track that goes well with the video transfer.

Once again, “An Affair To Remember” does not include anything new in terms of special features on the Blu-ray release.  All the special features have been left in standard definition.  The Blu-ray comes with the film historian audio commentary track, which is interesting the first time around.  “Affairs To Remember: Cary Grant” has Grant’s wife discussing his life.  “Affairs To Remember: Deborah Kerr” has Kerr’s husband discussing their relationship.  “A Producer To Remember: Jerry Wald” looks back at Wald’s works.  “Directed By Leo McCarey” is a commentary on McCarey’s life and works.  “The Look Of An Affair To Remember” is a visual filmmaking piece.  “AMC Backstory: An Affair To Remember” goes behind the scenes with the onset drama.  Lastly there is a Fox Movietone News section and a trailer.  This is a digibook edition so the film comes in a hardback book type case with 24 pages of biographies and images.

“An Affair To Remember” may come across a bit strung out today, but for the most part the sentiment of the 1950s still carries over to viewers of the present.  This is a great Valentine’s Day choice and recommended for your collection.

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