Reel Classics

Love Affair: The Criterion Collection (1939) - Blu-ray Review

Love Affair: The Criterion Collection

“The things we like best are either illegal, immoral or fattening.”

It starts on a boat – an ocean liner headed to New York. Two strangers who enjoy a life of indulgences have a chance meeting when a telegram caught in the wind brings them together. Despite being engaged to their own respective partners – who are conveniently not on this trip – singer Terry McKay (Irene Dunne) and painter (and famous womanized) Michel Marnet (Charles Boyer) cannot help but fall in love during their journey home. But will they feel the same way in six months? Well, if they do, the plan is to meet again at the top of the Empire State Building after that time passes, and they can be together. But of course, nothing goes as planned.

"Rather then letting the Code’s prudish principles get in the way, McCarey makes the drama work."


Love Affair sweeps you off of your feet at the start. The charming and delightfully awkward humor of the romantic comedy genre grabs your heart in an instant. Then, the undeniable chemistry between Dunne and Boyer will quickly have you wishing for Terry and Michel to forget their fiancés and get together, though both are hesitant to do so at first. But their best efforts of avoiding each other on the ship are hardly enough to keep them apart. As fate would have it, even the ship’s restaurant somehow seats them at neighboring tables one night. In the first act, director Leo McCarey’s familiar and perfected screwball-comedy chops shine, but by the second act, the director wonderfully shows (and actually has to show) that he can guide the film through the darker tones of drama.

For those viewing this film with modern eyes, it does not seem at all to be that scandalous. By today’s standards, this film is extraordinarily tame. Two people on a trip are thinking about cheating on their fiancés…yeah, we’ve watched characters in movies do way worse. But in a time when the Production Code was in full swing, this film had its fair-share of production nightmares. Honestly, it is quite a miracle that this film got a green light in the first place…but, of course the green light came at a cost. The problem is not necessarily Terry and Michel’s infidelity (of course that was an issue), but it is more of the fact that Dunne’s Terry did not save herself for marriage and has been living as a kept woman with a sugar daddy (her boss of the company she works for, no less). If, at some point, Terry does not atone for this sin…then the movie would not have been approved by the Production office. Now, this is where the drama, and McCarey’s genius comes in.Love Affair: The Criterion Collection

Rather then letting the Code’s prudish principles get in the way, McCarey makes the drama work. Upon its occurrence, Terry’s accident of getting hit by a car on her way to meet Michel on their agreed upon date, feels…wrong. But perhaps that is because not many films of this era take hard rights into something so shocking. I certainly was expecting more screwball, not tragedy. But this sudden darkness is actually somewhat of a breath of fresh air for films of this time period. McCarey did not let the film suffer because of the Code, in fact, he turned it into one of the most beloved and treasured love stories to be put on film. In fact, HE even loved it so much that he remade it eighteen years later as An Affair to Remember with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr

There is no doubt, Love Affair is a REEL CLASSIC. With a wonderful mixture of comedy and drama, this film is romantic, funny, sentimental, and actually pretty clever at times. Dunne and Boyer are magical together and it is a classic film you do not want to miss. And great news: courtesy of the Criterion Collection, you can now pick up a fresh Blu-Ray copy with an absolutely STUNNING new restoration that this film rightfully deserves.

4/5 stars

Love Affair: The Criterion Collection

Blu-ray Details

Home Video Distributor: Criterion
Available on Blu-ray
- February 15, 2022
Screen Formats: 1.37:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
LPCM Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Golden-age Hollywood’s humanist master Leo McCarey brings his graceful touch and relaxed naturalism to this sublime romance, one of cinema’s most intoxicating tear-wringers. Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer are chic strangers who meet and fall in love aboard an ocean liner bound for New York. Though they are both involved with other people, they make a pact to reconnect six months later at the top of the Empire State Building—until the hand of fate throws their star-crossed affair tragically off course. Swooning passion and gentle comedy coexist in perfect harmony in the exquisitely tender Love Affair (nominated for six Oscars), a story so timeless that it has been remade by multiple filmmakers over the years—including McCarey himself, who updated it as the no less beloved An Affair to Remember.

Video

Considering that for many years, the only accessible versions of this film were countless copies-of-copies that originated from a 16mm print decades ago, this new version is absolutely spectacular. Getting their hands on a 35mm original nitrate print and a safety 35mm duplicate negative, The Museum of Modern Art and Lobster films were able to do wonders with the video. The new and improved restoration features serious upgrades in sharpness and contrast making look like it almost could have been made today (minus the minimal signs of aging of the film). Especially considering where they started, this new 4K upgrade is overwhelmingly impressive. 

Audio

No more unclear, muffled audio and no more pops and clicks. The newly remastered and uncompressed monoaural soundtrack comes in loud and clear, unlike the previous DVD releases. Overall, a very solid restoration.

Supplements:

Film nerds, you will most definitely enjoy all this release has to offer as the special features dive into the film’s history and this new restoration (and more!).

Commentary:

Special Features:

There are only a few to round out the release.

Blu-ray Rating

  Movie 4/5 stars
  Video  5/5 stars
  Audio 5/5 stars
  Extras 4/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

4.5/5 stars


Film Details

Love Affair: The Criterion Collection

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
Runtime:
88 mins
Director
: Leo McCarey
Writer:
Delmer Daves; Donald Ogden Stewart
Cast:
Irene Dunne; Charles Boyer; Maria Ouspenskaya
Genre
: Comedy | Classic | Romance
Tagline:
A Leo McCarey Production.
Memorable Movie Quote: "It's not that I'm prudish but my mother told me never to be in a man's room in any month ending in 'r'!"
Theatrical Distributor:
RKO Radio Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
April 7, 1939
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
February 15, 2022.
Synopsis: rene Dunne and Charles Boyer are chic strangers who meet and fall in love aboard an ocean liner bound for New York. Though they are both involved with other people, they make a pact to reconnect six months later at the top of the Empire State Building—until the hand of fate throws their star-crossed affair tragically off course. Swooning passion and gentle comedy coexist in perfect harmony in the exquisitely tender Love Affair (nominated for six Oscars), a story so timeless that it has been remade by multiple filmmakers over the years—including McCarey himself, who updated it as the equally beloved An Affair to Remember.

Art

Love Affair: The Criterion Collection

 

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