Two for the Road (1967)

“Two for the Road” (1967)



cinematic emotion

This is one of the most effective and tender experiments i’ve ever had with films. One can spend a lifetime trying to understand why this is so effective. And it will be a good life.

This is one of the great pieces Stanley Donen promoted and helped creating in his England based years. He made several efforts with independent productions which, at once, aimed at selling themselves and finding a place in film global market, but on the other hand were personal projects where Donen could explore what he wanted.

For the relation between cinema and human emotions, i think this is his best effort (from the films i’ve seen so far). It’s an honest piece of film-making, which has what it takes for me: -it is effective in ways that resonate in me for long after i saw it, like a wandering echo through my mind and soul; -it works and explores cinema as a medium in evolution, and proposes new things; -it stages a story in a way i’d never seen before.

So, what we have (as always with Donen) is not an individual sole vision at stake. Instead this is the result coordinated effort of 2 brilliant minds (Donen and Mancini) and a sincerely and honestly competent one (Frederic Raphael). What they created was a long piece of concentrated non-bombastic emotion, like an 111 minute wandering. I’d never seen a film with such an effect without relevant hot points in the plot. This is totally not classic in the way it doesn’t bow the story with ups and downs, but instead makes the story into a mood. But it has a story! That’s the thing. The honesty of it exists, i think, because of Raphael. He rooted the script in real life and to a large extent he is largely responsible for the success of this. Films are mostly about other films, in the way they use conventions, staged emotions, planned reactions, according to a ‘genre’. A genre is probably a guide to a certain kind of film. Not so much here. Life invaded film, and that’s what’s special about this one.

How it is done is the groundbreaking thing here: we have a story about an normal life, a normal marriage, whose sole reason to be in the film is because it is totally normal. What is made is take that normal life out of its normal daily life context, and instead choose the exception situations of that life. Lives running like cars in a road. The road as the life. It works because we avoid asking ourselves certain questions: where do they live exactly? how’s their bedroom in their house? Where does he buy his newspaper? What does she do in her daily life? This is daily life and daily problems detached from their daily context. And it’s just great.

The cinematic construction was also novel in its day, and still effective today. The 4 distinct time moments over the 10 years depicted here are chopped and we see them by separated. Audrey’s hairstyles and the cars they use make the difference for us. This is a writing concern. The editing helps this work. It’s great powerful work.

Audrey Hepburn rolls with this, that she was relatively limited as an actress is a fact, but here she does something remarkable which is to subtract her star status of the screen, and play with the director. It’s a prove that she knew where she stood and what was required of her to make things work.

If you want, watch the film imagining Paul Newman in the role of Finney, since he was Donen’s first choice. It’s a fun exercise.

I think everybody should get some exposure to this little film at least once in their life time.

My opinion: 5/5

This comment on IMDb


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