Wilder: Love in the Afternoon (1957) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
23Dec/120

Wilder: Love in the Afternoon (1957)

In Paris, detective Claude Chavasse (Maurice Chevaleir) is hired to follow a wife suspected of infidelity with the notorious American libertine Frank Flannagan (Gary Cooper). When the husband learns that his suspicions are accurate, he tells Claude of his plan to kill Flannagan. Claude's daughter Ariane (Audrey Hepburn) overhears the threat and warns Frank of the coming trouble. She then plays the part of a worldly socialite with a list of conquests as long as Flannagan's. The bemused ladies' man returns to America the next day and Ariane, completely in love, follows his romantic escapades in the news. She sees him again in Paris the following year, and resumes her worldly guise, telling tales of former lovers when they meet at his hotel in the afternoon. Frank, amazed by the mystery girl and surprised to find himself jealous of her past, hires Claude to uncover more information about her. When the detective realizes what has happened, he asks Frank not to break his daughter's heart.

LoveInTheAfternoon3Ryan COMMENTARY w/ Rating
Love in the Afternoon was an OK movie that could have been better had it been casted differently. While they were going for a charismatic, attractive playboy type to play Frank Flannagan but they cast Gary Cooper who was none of those things. Instead of a playfulness that could have been between Flannagan and Ariane, it just comes off creepy. Cooper is about 20 years too old for her, doesn't have any type of personality and when he kisses her it doesn't come off as passionate and it always seems like he is going to hurt her instead of embrace her.

Beyond that big problem, this was definitely a Wilder film and there were many of his trademarks in this film. Once again an anklet is a big deal in the film and is filmed as lovingly as it was in Double Indemnity. There is a specific hook up song that is played throughout the film like in Sabrina. Finally, mirrors play a big part in one scene that is shot wonderfully between Flannagan and Ariane when you don't see Flannagan in the shot but his reflection. To put it simply even if I didn't know this was a Wilder film before watching it I have no doubt I would have known after.

This is another movie that combines two of your favorite things Danny so what are your thoughts? Am I being too hard on Cooper or does he come off as a dirty old man to you too?

LoveInTheAfternoon1DannyCommentaryBannerShort
This is the third time I've watched Love in the Afternoon, and that's at least one time too many. It's charms and pleasures are few, and they've pretty much vanished once you know how the beast dances.

Pretty much the only exchange I remember word for word from Conversations With Wilder is his explanation of Gary Cooper's age: "When did he become too old for the part? About five minutes after we cast him." I think the same could be said for Hepburn, who here is playing a teenager when she obviously isn't. Putting her into oversized clothes and pixie haircuts only gets you so far. Her lovelorn act gets old, especially for such a bland horndog as Cooper is here.

Cooper's character arc is interesting, as he turns from a robot lover into a real one. He's unromantic at the beginning, as he knows how to use romance but doesn't indulge in it. He's revealed by various newspaper clippings to be a fun and wacky guy, though we never really see it when he's actually on screen. His mischievous streak is confined to the screenplay.

This film is simply awash in phallic imagery. The film's plot, which revolves around how sexual experience alters peoples perceptions of each other, simply flounders for long periods of time. Playing classical music over people looking wistful isn't as romantic as Wilder wants it to be.

I'm always sort of surprised when I realize that Love in the Afternoon was made after Sabrina to be honest. One seems like the work of a smart, mature director unveiling an amazing starlet, and the other feels like unfettered foundering. It's not as dull as Spirit of St Louis, but it feels to me that at this point Wilder has simply lost whatever traction he had and keeps struggling to rediscover his roots. This movie wants to be The Smiling Lieutenant or One Hour With You, some of Lubitsch's early films. Instead it feels a step down from Seven Year Itch, too unsophisticated for the sophisticated ideas it tries to hide behind.

LoveInTheAfternoon2Ryan COMMENTARY w/o Rating
I love how you mention how his mischievous streak is only seen on the screenplay and newspaper clippings because you are 100% right. I think that is a bigger problem than his age because Cooper does not look the part and you never seen a moment where he seems to enjoy his lifestyle. Cooper is just plain wrong for this part but that is as much on him as it was on the casting because it should have been evident it wasn't going to work from the beginning. I think we can agree that this is a role that Cary Grant was born to play because he could have done the role in his sleep.

I don't dislike the film near you (and I would never insult it as bad to say that Seven Year Itch is better) and I did find a few charms in the film. I liked Maurice Chevalier as the pessimistic PI and father of Ariane. His character felt like he belonged in a Wilder film and I wished he would have worked with Wilder again because they worked well together. I also chuckled at the traveling band playing the same 3 songs over and over. It was one of those jokes that was repeated so often in the film it went from being funny to annoying back to funny again.

Is this one of Wilder's better films? Not even close. It is a homage, like you said earlier, to Wilder's idol Lubitsch but missing the chemistry that made all those movies sing. It also has a romantic couple that share not one shred of chemistry together and a textbook example of a actor being horribly miscast in Gary Cooper. Yet with all of that I think this movie is a good example of why Audrey Hepburn became an icon because she makes the movie feel breezy and not a task to make it through. I am just glad we are through this period of Wilder's library and are about to hit some of my favorite films of his because the last few weeks have been tough going.

The Films of Billy Wilder

Posted by Danny

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