Two For The Road

Stanley Donen

It. tit.: Due per la strada; Scen.: Frederic Raphael; F.: Christopher Challis; Mo.: Madeleine Gug, Richard Marden; Scgf.: Willy Holt; Co.: Sophie Rocas, Ken Scott, Michelle Rosier, Paco Rabanne, Mary Quant, Foale Tuffin, Hardy Amies; Mu.: Henry Mancini; Int.: Audrey Hepburn (Joanna Wallace), Albert Finney (Mark Wallace), Eleanor Bron (Cathy Maxwell Manchester), William Daniels (Howard Maxwell Manchester), Gabrielle Middleton (Ruth Manchester), Claude Dauphin (Maurice Dalbret), Nadia Gray (Francoise Dalbret), Georges Descrieres (David), Jacqueline Bisset (Jackie), Judy Cornwell (Pat), Irene Hilda (Yvonne de Florac), Dominique Joos (Sylvia), Kathy Chelimsky (Caroline), Carol Van Dyke (Michelle), Karyn Balm (Simone); Prod.: Stanley Donen per Stanley Donen Films; Pri. pro.: 27 aprile 1967. 35mm. D.: 111’. Col.


T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

A man and a woman, on a trip (both real and metaphorical). It is 1967, and American film has a new attitude: but The Graduate comes out in December, Gangster Story a few months before. Stanley Donen had been living in London for a couple of years. Two for the Road appeared on American screens in late spring, and it was a totally modern road movie, travelling through the French countryside and the Riviera with the feverish, cheeky attitude of free cinema (of which Albert Finney was a leading figure, the proletarian hero of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and the adventurous seducer of Tom Jones). An American abroad, Donen observes the world around him, assimilates and relaunches, exposing the stable form of Hollywood romantic comedy to the unstable vitality of the new European cinema. Married for twelve years, Mark and Joanna’s “voyage to France” is a complicated assembly of different times, in which steps forward and steps back build a pattern of echoes and rhymes: the true answer to a fundamental question, asked at a particular moment, may be given years later (“What kind of people would sit at a restaurant without a word to say to each other?” “Married people”). A British coproduction with English characters, Two for the Road is still an “American comedy” for its shamelessly persistent pursuit of happiness: after the clashing sparks of their meeting (with just a touch of screwball), the long bliss of the beginnings, deviations, recognitions, betrayals, the repetition of gestures that create complicity but with overtones of impatience, these two are still together, on the road, ready to cross a frontier, an ambiguous finish line and point of departure. The intrusiveness of time, for a master of choreography, does not neutralize space: the first moments of love, walking, hitchhiking, driving the old MG, immerse Mark and Joanna in open, languid, almost empty spaces; the trip in the family car squeezes them in claustrophobic close ups; the present is a space that tends to set them apart, in a hazy repetition of objects, colours and figures (including an adventurous blonde for him and a playboy lover for her). We leave Mark and Joanna Wallace where we found them: suspended in a liminal zone that is melancholic and “technically sweet” – made even sweeter by Henry Mancini’s soundtrack. “Bitch,” he says to her; “bastard,” she replies. But in the only way Stanley Donen could have them say it: once more, with feeling. Donen takes a swing at the conventions of the marriage story, and the new makes a break in iconography. Audrey Hepburn too is traumatically new here. Legend has it that Donen had a hard time convincing Hepburn to cut her hair, to abandon Givenchy and to recognize herself in an adult image, for the first time. The intention perhaps was to make her an icon of an abstract, graphic style – but Paco Rabanne exercise worked only halfway (despite the gleam of a memorable metallic evening gown), betrayed by surprise by a false memory, by images that bring back an Audrey with a headband in her still long hair, who pretends to be younger than she is, who plays herself ten years before, a funny face with a radiant smile that undeniably, even if slightly, is getting older: it creates a sensation of nostalgic dissonance, of moving unease, suddenly her cut hair seems to represent everything that we have lost. Hepburn will never be a pop icon. Stanley Donen will never be a director of the new American cinema. And yet, in the spring of 1967, the most audacious and unusual things that happen in American cinema take place in this comedy of marriage suspended between tenderness and darkness. The screenplay was written by Frederic Raphael, who thirty years later was called by Kubrick to write Eyes Wide Shut. In rediscovering this masterpiece by Donen, we will see that everything has its place.

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