The Passionate Friends

The Passionate Friends is a melodrama.  Can there be any doubt, given the title?  If so, one has simply to read the plot synopsis.  The story is described in the Wiki entry as, “a love triangle in which a woman cannot give up her affair with another man.”  And for the first hour or so of the film, what you see is what you get.  The melodrama is so intense at times as to border on camp.  And then something marvelous and unexpected happens.  What started out as a beautifully photographed but predictable schlock fest turns into a moving, memorable, and satisfying film with brilliant performances and a surprise ending which raises it considerably over the bar.

Three reasons:

1. Claude Reins, in particular, as the non-passionate friend, is magnificent in this film.   Poor Claude.  One can’t help but think of him in Notorious as well, playing much the same role as the chap who never really gets the girl.

2. It’s based on a novel by H.G. Wells.  Yeah.  Go figure.  The Invisible Man, War of the Worlds, and–Passionate Friends?

3. It was directed by David Lean, who also did a handful of other obscure indie flicks:  The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Lawrence of Arabia(1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965) Great Expectations (1946), Oliver Twist (1948), “Brief Encounter”, and “Blithe Spirit.”

4.  The cinematography is fantastic throughout.

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