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The End of the Affair (1999)

Directed by Neil Jordan

"The End of the Affair" is Neil Jordan's crusty telling of a Graham Greene novel about a weird love triangle set during the London Blitz of World War II. It's the kind of moldy white bread that's been the staple of Masterpiece Theater for many a year. Julianne Moore (doing her Michael Caine impression by being in just about every movie in '99) is Sarah, who is married to an impotent minister, Henry (Stephen Rea). She then starts having a torrid affair with Maurice (Ralph Fiennes), a writer and atheist who lives next door. They are happily screwing like bunnies when a Nazi bomb blows up part of the house. At first, Ralph seems to have been killed in the explosion, but when he suddenly revives it's the end of the affair. The reasons for this are completely obscure to Ralph. In the bitter aftermath, he hires a private detective in order to find out exactly what went wrong. Julianne seems like a saint but Ralph thinks she might be a whore. It's against this obsessive mindset that the story is played out.

The End of the Affair

On first glance, this seems like just the right kind of story for director Neil Jordan. Most of his films involve a crisis of spirituality and its effects on sex. "The Company of Wolves" (1984), "Mona Lisa" (1986), "The Crying Game" (1992), "Interview with the Vampire" (1994) -- all deal with the death of innocence and acceptance of the animal urges within in a strange, dreamlike way. The difference here is that those other films felt original and new. "The End of the Affair" is too cliche ridden to be salvaged -- the impotent husband (it's okay that the wife seeks sex outside the marriage); the wife's cough (she has a terminal illness); the atheistic writer (won't accept the established order); swelling violins during love scenes (I invite everyone not to buy this movie's soundtrack); endless chatter interrupted by graphic nudity (a desperate bid to get someone to see this flick and then keep them awake); costume drama (cynical attempt to gain Oscar nominations); British (again, cynical attempt to lend "sophistication" and gain some Oscars); Madonna/whore complex (a virtuous woman can't have sex just because it feels nice. Come on, the woman is married, not dead). In grand bad-romance tradition, all that is required to set things right between the lovers is a heart to heart chat, and not even a long one. The reason for Sarah abandoning Maurice turns out to be so stupid that, if I were in his shoes, I would've been twice as pissed off than when I didn't know. You know what? I'm not in his shoes and it still pisses me off. Fuck this movie! -- Rating: $0.10

Tom Graney -- copyright 1999, Hollywood Outsider

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