Love In The Afternoon (1957)

Ideal weight is heavy enough to get suitcase closed but light enough to not break suitcase.

In theory, it isn’t fair to judge a film on what it isn’t, and yet as much as I enjoyed the vast majority of Love In The Afternoon, there were a few decisions that went in a different direction than I thought would be best and it leaves me conflicted. Ariane (Audrey Hepburn) is the daughter of a private detective (Maurice Chevalier) and gets thrills reading his case files against his wishes, and why not with all the tabloid-style grist. When she overhears that a cuckolded husband intends to shoot one particularly notable ladies man, Frank (Gary Cooper), she decides to intervene.

I’m perfectly comfortable with the idea of Ariane seeing the appeal of Frank, even though he knows his nature and even though he is twice her age, because we certainly see enough charm. Compared to the doting Michel, a classmate at the conservatory that the film makes a point of painting as a bit of a prat, it’s not surprising that she’d be looking for a bit more excitement. It’s cute that she tries to pretend that she’s a libertine to equal Frank, even if we know this isn’t the case. But this premise that could be fertile ground to challenge certain gender conceptions falls upon itself seeking to reaffirm them. It doesn’t condemn her alleged promiscuity exactly but it also doesn’t quite take the extra step in highlighting the double standard. More problematic is that it makes it clear that this whole game is an attempt by Ariane to snare this man, to tame him. This is a trait that makes Ariane seem less logical or strong, in contradiction to a character construction of a smart and independent woman. It pains me to see this wonderful character created early on, wonderfully delivered by Hepburn, fall into boring cliche.

Being a Wilder film, this has the expected snappy dialogue that makes it a mostly joyful experience. At a touch over two hours it does feel a bit drawn out at points, especially in the final act. But for a film that begins with a Chevalier voice-over that basically talks about how Paris is different because the people are always fucking, it is surprisingly chaste. As far as I can tell, all these various affairs consist of secretive dancing and kissing. There’s likely an implication of sex but it steers so far clear of it that I’m not even sure if that was the intent. I don’t need sex scenes, but at least slightly less formal dialogue at points might do more to suggest that this isn’t just courtship in the front parlour. So I guess for all my general appreciation for the film I’m just a bit too caught up on a couple of these details to really let myself enjoy it.

3/5

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2 Responses to Love In The Afternoon (1957)

  1. Pish Posh says:

    Love this review!! Would say more if I was coherent. Sleepy byes. You’re incredible!!

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