US, 1973, 92 minutes, Colour.
Natalie Wood, Robert Wagner, Bruce Davison.
Directed by Gilbert Cates.
The Affair's subject runs the risk of being branded as cliche, so writers, directors and actors can aim to do something new, or do the old thing well and without making apologies for it. The latter is what director Gilbert Cates, writer Barbara Turner and Natalie Wood and Robert Warner have chosen and audiences can enjoy another version of tentative love, its transforming of people's lives, its harrowing difficulties. This kind of film is easy to despise because it is unoriginal (as are indeed the situations and language of loving), but this one is attractively made and, in its way, a convincing focus on an affair.
1. The indication of the title and its tone, audience expectation of a love story, human relationships, sadness? The title and indications of treatment?
2. The importance of the stars, their real-life background and marriage? Their particular style in this kind of love story?
3. Audience response to a love story, human emotions? The values of love? How satisfying a love story was this? The capacity of each to love? Love and gift, the shortcomings of character for love, selfishness, inability to give to the other? The possibility of love in a person's life? How well-explored were these themes?
4. Colour, location photography, a lush world? Songs and music? The fact that Courtenay was a song-writer? The real and the unreal in this kind of world?
5. Natalie Wood's portrayal of Courtenay as attractive? The importance of the polio experience and her being a cripple? A living in her memories? The importance of her career and her skill? The way this was portrayed in detail? The bonds with her father, the pressure of her father? Her love for her brother and her reliance on him? How well was this shown at her home, the conversations between these characters? How well was the character of Courtenay revealed, her needs, her potential? The portrayal of the chance encounter, her continually saying 'no' to Marcus? The reasons for her finally saying 'yes'? The bonds between them? His telling the truth about his ex-wife and children? A growing friendship, her self-consciousness, yet her valuing the attachment? The character of Marcus, as a personality, the breakdown of marriage, bond with his children, his skill in his work? The attraction to Courtenay and its plausibility? His manner and his inviting her out? His persistence and the effect on him and on her? Liking her, and falling in love with her? How important was his moving in with her for him, for her? Her tentative approach? Her fears? His love but his feeling stifled? The destructive elements for both? How strongly was this brought to a head on the occasion of his wife's re-marriage? His drinking? The clash, the verbal fighting, the physical feeling? The truth being told? Marcus' desperation and his unwillingness to break off the affair? The devastating effect upon Courtenay? How well did Courtenay cope with the crisis, how badly? Was she right to go to California? Her reliance on Jamie, the encounter with Jennifer and her pregnancy? Was she comforted sufficiently by Jennifer?
10. Why the suicide attempt? Was this credible for the character that we knew? Was she so desperate? Puzzled? Importance of the hospital experience, especially the communication with Jamie? How did he build her up? The nature of her despair and the transition to some kind of hope?
11. What future did Courtenay have? How well had she learnt that it was possible to love and not be loved?
12. How seriously was the theme explored? On a popular level, women's magazine? How trite? How penetrating?