Love Affair (1994), starring Warren Beatty and Annette Bening
The first thing someone will say, if you mention that you adore the 1994 film Love Affair, is that it’s no An Affair to Remember – the 1957 film starring Carey Grant and Deborah Kerr, of which Love Affair is a remake. I wouldn’t know; for some reason I’ve never enjoyed watching classic black-and-white films, so I’ve never seen An affair to Remember (nor the 1939 version, the original Love Affair starring Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer). What I do know is that if you want to see a film that is romantic in every sense of the word – with two sublime actors, Warren Beatty and Annette Bening, who had just gotten married in real life not long before they started shooting this film; with cinematography that has a dreamy soft-focus quality, golden lighting and beautiful scenery throughout, taking us from New York to Tahiti and back; and which features the late-great Katharine Hepburn in her final film appearance (she was 86 then, and Warren Beatty wooed her to do the film through begging and sending her “lots and lots of flowers,” he told a magazine reporter at the time) – the 1994 version of Love Affair merits watching.
I saw it when it first came out on the big screen, I own a copy in my Amazon video library today, and I think this film was tended to so lovingly by Beatty that it stands the test of time: it’s a classic that manages to feel fresh rather than dated, even if much has changed in the world in the past 22 years, and even if the part of the film that features Katharine Hepburn seems like something from a fantasy rather than something out of real life. (Beatty produced the film and co-wrote the screenplay, and though he didn’t direct it, I recall reading that he had a lot of input concerning lighting and wardrobe: he wanted Bening to look especially beautiful and she does). He once said of the film, in reference to its sentimental nature, “Making this movie is, like, standing up at a rap concert and singing `Danny Boy.’ You shouldn’t make a career of singing `Danny Boy,’ but it’s a good tune, so if you’re going to sing it, you shouldn’t change the words.”
I couldn’t agree more. And I’m recommending it as the perfect film to watch at Christmas, not only because it’s final scene takes place on Christmas, but because at this time of year, we are most in touch with our sentimental side. I’d venture to say that for a good many of us at the holidays, sentimentality of the kind expressed in Love Affair is precisely what we crave.