Love in the Afternoon is a romantic comedy drama produced, co-written, and directed by Billy Wilder (Some Like It Hot, Sunset Boulevard). It is based on the novel by Claude Anet. It stars Audrey Hepburn and Gary Cooper in the two leading roles.
Frank Flannagan (Gary Cooper) is a millionaire playboy who regularly has affairs and romances with a number of women. Claude Chavasse (Maurice Chevalier) is a private investigator who is hired by client Monsieur X (John McGiver) when he suspects his wife is having an affair with another man. Claude Chavasse confirms it: his wife is having a romance with another. The person having the affair? Flannagan.
Upon hearing the news, Monsieur X decides he will go kill the man who is having the affair with his wife. Ariane Chavasse (Audrey Hepburn), the detective's daughter, overhears the news and the husband's troubled reaction. She decides that she will help to prevent the murder. She finds Flannagan and pretends to be the woman who he is having the affair with.
After helping prevent his murder, Ariane falls in love with playboy Frank. Despite his apparent lack of any real interest in her (and his blasé attitude towards everything about her) Ariane can't stop thinking about him. He even forgets her name often and simply refers to her as "Thin Girl". Nonetheless, a romance brews between them over the course of the story.
The best thing about Love in the Afternoon is star Audrey Hepburn. Hepburn is every bit as delightfully charming as ever in her part here. She gives a strong performance that certainly elevates the material she had to work with. On the flip side, Gary Cooper feels miscast. The actors don't have any chemistry together. Most of this is because Cooper plays a unlikeable character. The material given by writers Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond (Some Like It Hot, Irma La Douce) wasn't as good as it should have been.
Despite being a comedy, the film isn't as funny as it should be (the only really enjoyable aspect is a band of musicians who performs concerts for Frank Flannagan wherever he goes: including on tiny boats, as they perform across a lake). The film also disappoints as a romance. It isn't a very romantic story. It's hard to really understand why Ariane Chavasse would have ever fallen for someone as thoughtless as Frank Flannagan.
Love in the Afternoon features stellar cinematography by William C. Mellor (Giant, A Place in the Sun). The beautiful black and white photography gives the production a romantic style of filmmaking that isn't present in the storytelling itself. The music adapted by Franz Waxman (Rebecca, The Philadelphia Story, Sunset Boulevard) offers exuberant music by the composer. The costumes by Jay A. Morley Jr. (The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Glenn Miller Story) are creative, unique, and effective for the characters in the film.
Directed by Billy Wilder (Sabrina, The Apartment, Double Indemnity), Love in the Afternoon is a rare disappointment from a filmmaker known for making classic after classic. Wilder is one of the Hollywood greats who has contributed a number of terrific films. His filmography includes many masterpieces. Yet something was off with this production. It starts with the screenplay (which isn't as effective as it should have been). It continues with the casting of Cooper. It continues with silly over-the-top comedic sequences which feel out of place in a film that is trying (perhaps too hard) to find some kind of balance between romance, drama, and comedy. Love in the Afternoon is interesting when considered within the context of the filmography of Wilder and Hepburn but it doesn't muster up much enthusiasm on its own.
Love in the Afternoon arrives on Blu-ray from Warner Archive with a 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded high definition transfer in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen. It received a sparkling 2K restoration effort and has a robust 35 mbps bit-rate encode. This is an impressive presentation which has sharp clarity, depth, and good reproduction of the beautiful black and white cinematography by William C. Mellor.
The audio is presented in lossless 24 bit 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. Though a stereo mix, this is a basic sound presentation which preserves the mono audio. The audio sounds perfectly suitable though, with good dialogue clarity and overall fidelity given the age of the elements.
Subtitles are provided in English SDH (for the deaf or hard of hearing).
Original Theatrical Trailer
Despite a terrific poster design by the legendary Saul Bass, Love in the Afternoon isn't as charming or entertaining as it aims to be. It's a rare misfire by the great Billy Wilder that ultimately falters on a weak story and poor chemistry between Audrey Hepburn and Gary Cooper.
Warner Archive's Blu-ray features a stunning 2K restoration with an impressive high-bitrate encoding and quality lossless audio. The release lacks meaningful extras (it only includes the theatrical trailer and nothing else). Love in the Afternoon is a disappointing effort but fans of Audrey Hepburn or Billy Wilder may still find it of some interest.