16 January 2015

Blu-ray Review - Two For the Road (1967)

Release Date:
19th January 2015
Rating: PG
Stanley Donen
Cast: Audrey Hepburn, Albert Finney
Buy: Blu-ray - Two for the Road

Two for the Road is a slightly forgotten film by Stanley Donen (Singin’ in the Rain, Bedazzled, Charade), which has been re-released by Eureka in their Masters of Cinema imprint. It stars Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn and both have rarely been better. The film’s influence can certainly be seen in Richard Linklater’s rightfully celebrated Before Trilogy.

Mark Wallace (Albert Finney) is a well off architect who is married to Joanne (Audrey Hepburn) in a relationship which is obviously on the rocks. Through a series of flashbacks and flash-forwards the stories of how they fell in love, fell out of love, and got back together are shown. The film is mostly set in parts of Northern France, and more often than not is set on the same road but at different points in their relationship.

It was an interesting period for Hollywood when Two for the Road came out; films like Bonnie &Clyde and Point Blank were murdering the classic Hollywood studio system. I think Donen saw this and decided to make a film which partly owed itself to some of the work from the French New Wave, but simultaneously worked as a mainstream romantic comedy. It was also the first big film that Albert Finney did for an American Studio; he had great success a couple years earlier with Tom Jones (for those who don’t know, it’s not about the Welsh singer). Audrey Hepburn obviously was a massive iconic film star, but even by 1967 her star was fading and she only acted in 5 more films in the next 25 years.

Frederic Raphael, who had a massive success with Darling starring Julie Christie (he won the Oscar for it), wrote the script. It has been said that the interactions between Finney and Hepburn are based on his own relationship with his wife, and it certainly has a feel of an authentic real life romance. Raphael deservingly was nominated for an Oscar for the script.
Christopher Challis shot the film. He learned his trade being a camera operator for Powell & Pressburger, eventually graduating to becoming their DP. Martin Scorsese once said of Challis, “Chris Challis brought a vibrancy to the celluloid palette that was entirely his own, and which helped make Britain a leader in that long, glorious period of classic world cinema”. His innovative work is on glorious display in Two for the Road. The photography of the French landscape just pops with the new Hi-Def transfer.

Two for the Road is fascinating and extremely funny film and a example of old Hollywood director taking his cues from the New Wave but making something still accessible to a mainstream audience in 1960s. It’s editing is fascinating and it’s shot length is extremely short for the period, much more modern than even someone like Sam Peckinpah who is noted for his fast cuts. It’s probably Audrey Hepburn’s finest performance and Finney is always a joy on screen. The film’s influence on future films is undeniable, and it has a wonderful score by Henri Mancini that fits the mood and pace perfectly - he considered it the favourite among his scores.  

The disc contains an interview with Frederic Raphael, a commentary by Stanley Donen, the theatrical trailer and a booklet with essays on the film.

Ian Schultz

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