Showing posts with label stanley Donen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label stanley Donen. Show all posts

16 January 2015

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

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Genre:
Comedy
Distributor:
Eureka
Release Date:
19th January 2015
Rating: PG
Director:
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

28 February 2014

Film Review - Funny Face (1957)

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Genre:
Musical, Comedy, Romance
Distributor:
Park Circus
Rating: PG
Re-Release Date:
28th February 2014 (UK)
Director:
Stanley Donen
Cast:
Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire, Kay Thompson


Jo Stockton (Audrey Hepburn) happily works as an assistant in an obscure New York bookstore. One day a top fashion glossy takes over the shop as the setting for a photo shoot. During the shoot the magazine's editor Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson) and her top photographer Dick Avery (Fred Astaire) discover Jo whom they declare as the next 'big thing'! She is then whisked to Paris by the scheming duo, where she not only causes a sensation on the catwalks of the fashion capital but soon becomes the focus of Avery's attention on both sides of the camera.

For those who think cinema's fascination with fashion is a recent phenomena, with films like The Devil Wears Prada (2006) and The September Issue (2009) - think again. Funny Face (1957), the piece of cinematic whimsy directed by Stanley Donen - who made such Hollywood classics as Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) - proves that as far back as the 1950s the public was obsessed with the beautiful world inhabited by stick thin models, demanding editors and temperamental photographers. The film shares endless similarities with the real world of fashion, and especially the refined echelons of couture: not surprising considering the character of Maggie Prescott was rumoured to be modelled on Diana Vreeland, the real-life Editrix of fashion bible American Vogue, whilst the inspiration for Astaire's photographer apparently derived from one of the most influential super snappers ever, Richard (Dick) Avedon.

As with the exclusive world of high fashion, Funny Face is one of those rare films which not only transcends fads and passing tastes, but stands out from the rest thanks to its effortless style, wit and sophistication. Hepburn simply fizzes in the role of Jo, the feisty young woman battling with the attentions of Astaire's older, more worldly-wise mentor - a role she would repeat a few years later in My Fair Lady (1964) alongside Rex Harrison.

Like the industry it so wittily sends up, the evergreen Funny Face is beguiling, tasteful and painfully chic. The film's timely rerelease coincides conveniently with the close of the bi-annual fashion circus which has been making its way around the clothing capitals of the world. Few of us will ever get the chance of a ringside seat at these events. However glossy magazines like Vogue and Harper's Bazaar allow people to be a part of these fantasies, vicariously through their pages. Films such as the exquisite Funny Face - where all the ingredients came together in a picture perfect composition - also allow us to share, even if only for a brief time, in this land of adult make-believe.

★★★★★

Cleaver Patterson