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Could you talk a little bit about the way the film experiments with its form?

Could you talk a little bit about the way the film experiments with its form?

After they get to know each other well enough to become Harry and Sally, rather than Man and Woman, involved in initial Battle-Of-The-Sexes skirmishings, the characters show that people are people and love matters more than gender assumptions

It’s so clever! The couch couple interludes interrupt but also forecast the next scenes between the main characters on their route to becoming a couple themselves. Then events echo and balance each other (journeys; interrupted kisses; food) so that there’s a very pleasing balance and symmetry to the whole thing, and then the film also borrows other elements like split screen techniques (I’d argue this is again from Pillow Talk) to show its allegiance to the genre.

Harry takes longer to catch on to this, which is why he has to wander around on his own in the cold on New Year’s Eve…

The famous diner scene where Sally simulates an orgasm in public is an iconic moment in the history of cinema. Could you say something about the scene’s importance within the film, and its place in pop culture?

Although I’d never particularly noticed the inventiveness before, this was the prie to love when working on it for the book

It was the bit I was least looking forward to writing about at first, because it’s so well known, even to people who’ve never seen the whole film. That was daunting, and then it’s been so copied and parodied – as I detail in the book – that I had to search to find something new to say. I think what saved it for me, and made it fresh again, was reading in Ephron and Reiner’s separate writings that this was another product of collaboration. Scheinman and Reiner had regaled Ephron with stories about what men meant when they said…, what they were really thinking when they did this or that, and lots more on how they conducted their affairs. They wanted to know something about women’s secrets from men so Ephron told them the obvious one: women fake orgasm. It’s hilarious to think now that they didn’t at first believe her! So the idea developed to put this in the script and apparently it was Ryan who suggested she act it out rather than just confide it, Crystal who came up with the film’s famous one-liner, and then of course Reiner’s own mother who got to deliver it. At a deeper level too, the diner is the perfect place for this to take place, because so much has already been made of their attitudes to food being character indicators for Harry and Sally. He knows what he wants, orders quickly and eats because his body needs fuel; she needs to impose order on the chaos around her by being extremely specific and controlling about what she eats and how it’s served. As Sally goes into her routine, Harry continues at first to shovel food in his mouth, and this is indicative of his attitude to sex too: it’s a need, he straightforwardly arranges to have this need serviced. Sally meanwhile works herself up to feigned heights to teach him a lesson and then, in her coup de grace, smiles and calmly eats a mouthful of coleslaw. Nothing could better underline how much her performance of the orgasm has been just that, a performance, a simulation.

Well, very much in some ways. It certainly has a very specific 80s feel to it and references lots of zeitgeisty elements – the self-help books in the bookstore that Marie and Sally browse were the actual self-help bestsellers of that year, for example. And then there are the 80s fashions… On the other hand, the story of two people coming together is timeless, so it maintains its relevance beyond its originating context.

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