An Affair To Remember has something of a curious film history. The film is based on the original 1939 film Love Affair, a three-hankie weeper starring Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer. In 1957, Love Affair was remade as An Affair To Remember, starring the on-screen powerhouse of the always-debonair Cary Grant and unfailingly-lovely Deborah Kerr. Flash forward to 1993, in which Nora Ephron's insufferable Sleepless in Seattle heavily riffs on and references Affair's plot and characters. Finally, a third version of the original film was released in 1994, retaining the original title of Love Affair and presented as a vehicle for the husband and wife team of Warren Beatty and Anentte Benning.
That's a lot of celluloid for such a sappy, melodramatic, and somewhat limp story that even the most ardent of "chick flick" champions would have significant difficulty defending. And it's not like I am instantly against chick flicks; two of my favorite all-time films are Almodovar's Todo Sobre Mi Madre and Kieslowski's Bleu, both excellent movies that champion women of grit, character, strength, and vulnerability. Not to mention those classics of decades past that present love stories that move and affect you without pandering to the lowest common denominator of forced, overblown emotional shallowness.
Where An Affair To Remember falls short is in its glacial pacing, frequent lapses into melodrama, predictable storyline, and a pervading aura of self-conscious obviousness that gives the movie a dated and artificial aura. Grant and Kerr are two icons of film, charismatic and endearing presences who own every inch of the silver screen, and then some. In this film, they look great and act even better, and you can't keep your eyes off of them, but there is a permeating sense of falseness throughout the entire proceedings. As the viewer, you know that they are falling for each other because the plot tells you so, but it never registers with any sense of validity or immediacy. It's like watching two Porsches at a hayride.
That's not to say that the film is horrible, or even bad. An Affair To Remember is replete with magnificent Technicolor cinematography, the type that true movie fans and cinema snobs can't help but fall head-over-heels for. The movie is long and manipulative, but the overall storyline is decent if unremarkable. Perhaps this just isn't my movie (for my Cary Grant fix I'll take North by Northwest, Charade, or Notorious, while for Deborah Kerr I'll go with Black Narcissus or The King and I), but for fans of An Affair To Remember, this DVD offers a worthwhile and satisfying endeavor.
An Affair To Remember offers an extremely satisfying video presentation. The film is shown in its original Cinemascope film ratio of 2.35:1, and is anamorphically enhanced for your widescreen viewing ecstasy. Overall this is a very pleasing transfer, with only some very rare and marginal marks and spots on the print and noticeable grain structure. The Technicolor presentation is resplendent, with vibrant colors that sport lushness without oversaturation or bleeding, although at times tones seem a tad unnatural. Black levels are deep, with fine shadow delineation and excellent contrasts. Compression noise is nowhere to be seen, although there is a slight shakiness to the picture during certain scenes.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 (with English, French, and Spanish language tracks.) The overall audio is satisfactory if not overly engaging. The dialog is presented with brightness and clarity, although with a limited and slightly restrained range that results in a thinness that is often encountered in films from the era. Orchestrations are well rendered, with minimal activity from the surrounds that, when delivered, enhances crescendos and cues without overbearing the listener. Overall this is a decent presentation which, while it is nothing notable, will not disappoint.
Film Historian Joseph McBride and singer Marni Nixon are featured in a feature-length Audio Commentary. The pair, who were separately recorded and consequently had their comments edited into a single track, offer engaging information to the listener. Nixon is especially lively and entertaining, relaying her own experiences as a singer/dub-mistress in the heyday of Hollywood filmmaking, while McBride's film-school approach is more scholarly and informative. For fans of the film, this track is surely worth a listen.
An featurette entitled Movietone News: "An Affair to Remember" Shipboard Premiere Attracts Celebrities presents one-minute of Movietone newsreel footage that features the celebrities that attended the film's nautical premiere. It's cute but over way too quickly, but it makes for a fun addition.
More comprehensive is the twenty-five minute feature entitled Backstory; An Affair To Remember, an episode of AMC's enjoyable Backstory show. This episode goes into further detail about the history and impact of the film, and provides for a wonderful addition to this DVD. While sometimes a bit too "gossipy" and perhaps a bit overly in awe of the film, any self-respecting fan will enjoy it immensely.
We finish our trip through the supplements with a three-minute Theatrical Trailer, twenty behind-the-scenes photographs in the Still Gallery, and a Movie Classics section that features trailers for All About Eve, Gentlemen's Agreement, and How Green Was My Valley.
I think fans of An Affair To Remember will cherish this DVD as much as they do the movie. The film is wonderfully presented, with a fine transfer, acceptable audio, and worthwhile supplements that will enhance their love of the film. The commentary track and AMC Backstory episode are of particularly good quality. While it's not overloaded with supplements, this DVD makes for a nice special edition of the film. An Affair To Remember may not be my cup of tea, but if you love the film dearly you probably aren't interested in my jawjackin'. You simply want to know if this film is worth your hard-earned shekels. If you're a fan, this DVD comes recommended.