Ring a Ding Ding
Billy Wilder’s international appeal does not surprise me but I had no idea his 1957 Love in the Afternoon was so widely distributed around the world. When I search for movie posters to accompany my posts, I usually find a couple different versions for any given movie and sometimes a foreign one. When I looked for a visual for Love in the Afternoon, however, I found these:
I frankly had a hard time finding the American poster (it’s the black curtain one; bottom row, left) as every other country seemed to name the movie after its protagonist: Ariane. The wide variety of styles illustrate how other countries thought they could best market this movie about a young woman’s romance with an international playboy.
The countries of origin are (from left to right, top to bottom): Denmark, France, France, France, Germany, Italy, Italy, Italy, Italy, America, Poland, Spain.
The French posters vary greatly in their style whereas the Italian ones all have the same feel to them. Although it is similar to the American poster, the German version using the drawn shade is my favorite. Its colors are beautiful while still capturing the same symbolism as the American take. Which do you prefer?
Despite the curtain, however, there are no such concealing devices used in Love in the Afternoon to hide this secret romance. Cello student Ariane (Audrey Hepburn) lives in Paris with her father Claude Chavasse (Maurice Chevalier), a private detective specializing in illicit affairs. His latest subject is American businessman Frank Flannagan, played by Gary Cooper, and the jealous husband of a client is prepared to gun the man down for sleeping with his wife. Hearing this, and admiring Frank’s photograph, Ariane takes matters into her own hands. She ultimately finds herself climbing into the playboy’s suite and switching places with the woman so that the gunman has no cause to shoot.
Intrigued by this woman, Frank desires to see her again, but because of her father and her cello lessons, Ariane can only visit him in the afternoon. After one brief encounter, the American hits the road, but when he returns next year Ariane has a game of her own going. She offers false stories of a long list of lovers thus making Frank extremely jealous. Lucky for her, when the man finally discovers her true nature he is not dissuaded.
Being an Audrey fan, I love this movie unceasingly. Despite looking like a teenager and playing a character not far gone from that age, Audrey was 28 but still plenty shy of Cooper’s 56. The relationship should seem obscene, yet it does not. Audrey manages to play the alluring woman Cooper’s lover could easily desire while still maintaining some innocence. To those wanting to think their relationship consisted merely of some afternoon chat time, Wilder inserts hints that suggest otherwise. The passage of time, often preceded with something like the shedding of a fur coat, indicates the relationship spent plenty of time in the bedroom, whether we want to believe that of Audrey or not.
Wilder did a great job with Love in the Afternoon of catching Audrey in the finest lights. There were a handful of shots throughout when I thought, wow, she’s gorgeous. One could collect numerous artistic snapshots by freezing on certain of this woman’s expressions as she laughs, cries and loves.