23 August 2015


Twelve Things about The Love Affair

12. When you live in a country where divorce does not legally exist but married couples often have differences that they perceive to be irreconcilable, "Adultery Movies" are going to be A Thing. I almost wish I had seen more of them, so that I could put The Love Affair in better context--but they're actually not my "thing," and this is the first of them that I've seen.

11. The movie wastes no time establishing that long-married couple Vince and Trisha are having problems. Vince suspects, with good reason, that his wife is having an affair with his best friend; and her tearful confession, during their drawn-out fight, that she decided not to tell him about the time his best friend made a move on her (because it wasn't as if she reciprocated) only seems to be more evidence of her guilt. We find out later that this is just the straw that broke the camel's back and not a deal-breaker in and of itself--but should she have told him about that stolen kiss?

10. In the meantime, in another part of the city, Adie is at a fitting for her wedding dress when she gets some real evidence of someone else's guilt: her fiance has made a sex tape with another woman. It is the weakest link in the whole movie, all but screaming "Macguffin!" I think Adie's family history, in which her father left her mother for another woman, should have been enough for the writers and the actress to build a three-dimensional character from.

9. On the other hand, I appreciated the way they blended family dynamics with some unusual symbols . . .

There are better videos of Hobie sailing on Taal Lake out there,
but this was the only embeddable one without an annoying music track

Vince likes sailing because when he gets on the water, he forgets all his problems. Adie is all set to hate sailing when an eccentric job interviewer insists that she take a spin with him on his boat and she ends up falling into the water and having to swim back to shore. This could have totally been the meet-cute that throws them in each other's way; but instead, it is the third time they meet. The actual first time, however, is the stuff of which Filipino melodrama is made; I can understand why the filmmakers decided to keep it in, even as I wish they had taken more of a creative risk.

8. I must admit that I like the way Vince and Adie become friends. For they get to be good friends, fitting into each other's lives in such a way that the strengths of one make up for the weaknesses of another, without either of them feeling as if a burden is being borne. She is just what Vince needs now that he isn't speaking to either his wife or his (former) best friend; and he is just what Adie needs now that she is adrift without a man to be her anchor. (Yes, I will comment the irony you see there . . .) It is when Vince decides to turn their relationship into a romantic one, and when Adie rationalises that his marriage doesn't seem salvageable anyway, that their relationship becomes something that hurts both of them.

7. "Did you notice," whispered the friend I was watching this movie with, "that he was so determined to believe that his wife had already cheated on him that he ended up being the one cheating on her?" Chew on that instead of your popcorn, kids. I did.

6. We could do one of those critical feminist readings of The Love Affair by pointing out that it's not very inspiring that Adie always seems to need a man. I would argue that we, as human beings, always do need each other. And that nobody would be complaining about this aspect of Adie's development if her sailing partner had happened to be another woman. Or a gay man. (Note: that's Tricia's good friend.) On the other hand, it is sad for Adie that the men she has lavished love on have all ended up hurting her. And it is notable that they all do it by playing fast and loose with their obligations to the people women and children in their lives.

5. Of course, the women also share the culpability. But in Trisha's and Adie's cases, the cause of the fall is not so much a neglect of obligations as it is a belief that if they do fulfill their obligations, they can have everything they ask for. Take Trisha, who put up with coming second to Vince's job for years, until some poor judgment calls on his part caused something terrible to happen: she figured he owed her and found a way to call that debt in for years afterward. Or take Adie, who is an attentive, supportive, pleasant, all-around wonderful girlfriend . . . to a man who already happens to have a wife.

4. Now we've got to talk about the coffee. I used to discuss coffee rituals with my French and Italian trainees, who all found the Filipino way a little nutty. (Ah, cultural exchange!) In a nutshell, Filipinos also like coffee in the mornings; but we mostly like coffee when it rains.

Also, apparently, when we're feeling romantic

Come to think of it, there's also lots of rain in The Love Affair. But since it's mostly the pathetic fallacy, let's just focus on the coffee. About three years ago, when I had to review marketer Martin Lindstrom's Brandwashed for a local magazine, I read about the time he had been a consultant to Nestle Philippines. The company had been long aware that Filipinos like to drink coffee when it is cold and wet outside, so they were baffled that a new ad campaign for the monsoon season was not getting the expected returns. To get to the bottom of the mystery, Lindstrom lived with a Nescafe-drinking Filipino family for a week. At the end of the week, it rained. And the sound of the rain on the family's roof was different from all other sounds the globe-trotting Lindstrom had ever heard the rain make before. Later, he learned that Nescafe Philippines had made its commercials with stock rain sounds that were produced in some foreign studio: and while it was recognisably rain, it certainly wasn't Filipino rain. And that was enough to hurt sales of Nescafe coffee. At least that's the conclusion we can draw after the company rereleased the commercials with more "authentic" sounds and sales finally rose again.

I thought there were moments when coffee was used really well as as symbol and other times when it was as if the characters themselves were aware they were talking in euphemisms (which they wouldn't have been). Having said that, I give a pass to one scene in which someone does intentionally use coffee as a euphemism: some time after one of Vince and Trisha's sons discovers that his parents are having problems, he offers his father a cup of coffee and says, "It's really good, isn't it, Dad? . . . That's because Mom made it."

3. Another forgivable scene is the part when Vince discovers that Adie doesn't make coffee as well as Trisha does. (My friend and other people audibly whispering in the cinema: "Is it really going to come down to which woman makes the better brew???") I think that people who are rebounding from one relationship to another tend to try to recreate what was good about the former in the latter, even if it doesn't also fit the latter. And if they figure out soon enough what they are doing, it can lead them to reconsider the overhanging decision.

2. The Love Affair is a so-so movie that at least has a good moral, but even its so-so-ness has some flaws. There are at least two missing gaps in the plot that make certain developments come out of nowhere. After the movie, my friend mentioned one of those parts and asked whether she had missed something that had happened earlier; and I reassured her that it was the filmmakers who had missed something. Twice.

1. If you happen to be learning Filipino and are wondering if this movie would make a good resource, this last part is for you! I personally think that the visual aspect of movies and TV allows for a lot of coasting: unless you are so determined to understand every sentence that you watch each scene several times, you probably won't get much out of the exercise. (Even then, I'm not too certain.) That's doubly true for this movie, in which nearly every other sentence is in English. Heck, even the "love theme" (or should I say, the "adultery theme") is a cover of a well-known Filipino love song that happens to be entirely in English.

"Taglish" is not a proper language, but it is definitely a way of life. Which, yeah, probably means that it is a proper language. =P One day I'll write Khatzumoto and tell him about it.

Image Source: The Love Affair poster

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