Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Masters of Cinema - TWO FOR THE ROAD on Blu-ray ""

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Masters of Cinema - TWO FOR THE ROAD on Blu-ray

TWO FOR THE ROAD (1967; Stanley Donen)
"They don't look very happy."
"Why should they? They just got married."

I came to Stanley Donen's 1967 masterpiece as I've come to a lot of great films over the years - via the books of Danny Peary. TWO FOR THE ROAD was part of Danny's fantastic first entry in his "Cult Movies" book series. That book and his subsequent Cult Movies books, along with his indispensable Guide For the Film Fanatic, really shaped my taste in cinema at a pivotal time in my life. The books turned me into literally hundreds of films that I truly adore to this very day. TWO FOR THE ROAD has a very special place in my heart though. It is one of those very unique movies that has really spoken to me and impacted me in different ways as I've seen it many times over the years. It is ostensibly the story of the deterioration of a marriage, which may sound a bit depressing and the movie itself can be just that, but it is also quite affecting and poignant as well. It is potent cocktail of humor, bitterness and heartbreak and does it's best to dispel the idea of "happily ever after" while still being viewable as a potentially romantic tale nonetheless. What's partially quite memorable about the movie is not only the great performances by the two leads (Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn), but also in the way this particular story is told. It basically starts with the later years of the marriage and goes on to show it from it's very beginnings and how it got to the point of neglect and disrepair. What's great about it though is the structure. Basically we see the couple at various stages in their relationship as they find themselves on a road trip through Europe. The timeline bounces back and forth in a very neat way. There are even some very clever moments when the present day version of the couple passes each other on road in what appears to be the same time space. I've always loved the structure of the thing and it certainly makes the story more resonant in a lot of ways. For me personally, seeing the movie over the years as I myself have gone from single to dating to married to married with children has made for a unique cinematic relationship. Like any film, my take on it changes and evolves with each viewing. I really think it is Donen's crowning achievement, which some might see as heresy in light of the many great movies he made during his tenure. Amidst the crowded greatness of SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, CHARADE, SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS and ON THE TOWN, a movie like TWO FOR THE ROAD may get lost a little, but it's a true classic in its own right. Another thing that gives it a boost is the use of Henry Mancini for the music. As with another Audrey Hepburn classic (BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S), Mancini as a composer has the aboty to bring both a sense of whimsy and melancholy with his songs and melodies. It's a perfect fit for the sometimes wistful nature of TWO FOR THE ROAD and helps cement Mancini's work as some of my favorite in movies. Overall, this is a Criterion Collection kind of movie and I would be too surprised if they too put it out at some point as well. Seeing as they have put out other films from 20th Century Fox in the past (most recently with their Blu-ray of MY DARLING CLEMENTINE), it seems well within the realm of possibility that they might. That said, this MoC release is well worth picking up. The transfer looks very nice and the extras are good (see below).

Special Features:
-An audio commentary from director Stanley Donen himself is included here and it's an excellent supplement. Though it was recorded for a previous release, it's still delightful to hear Donen talking about the film himself. His specific recollections of scenes, choices and difficulties are revelatory - even in subtle moments.
-"Memories of Travel(s)" (26 mins) This is a French (subbed in English) interview with writer Frederic Raphael who wrote the script for TWO FOR THE ROAD (and also John Schlesinger's DARLING and Kubrick's EYES WIDE SHUT among others). Raphael speaks to the semi-autobiographical nature of the TWO FOR THE ROAD screenplay in that it was partially inspired by some of his travels with his wife Sylvia. It's w rather enlightening interview in that he discusses how he got the idea for the script and his collaboration with Stanley Donen. One of the main things he mentions that stood out is how the kernel of the idea came from him saying to his wife that a neat movie would be one where the main characters pass each other on the road in different phases of their relationship. The structural genius of the movie then comes more from the writing than the directing, which I was unsure about. Raphael also talks about looking at "tunnels of time" in the story and how he mapped out each trip the characters took so he could properly decide what to keep and what to omit. Fascinating interview.
-Also included is an excellent 36 page booklet featuring writing on the film and more.

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