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Thursday, June 2, 2016

TWO FOR THE ROAD (1967)

One of the first mainstream Hollywood films to take real advantage of the grammar & techniques coming out of the French New Wave; not merely sample jump cuts, speedy zoom lens shots & nonlinear narrative for a fashionably up-to-the-minute look. Stanley Donen’s slapstick Scenes From A Marriage is a sui generis romantic dramedy, alternately serious & satiric, carefully worked out for sentiment, laughs & jumping timeline in Frederic Raphael’s tightly interwoven script. Possibly, a little too tight, some of the riffs & running gags have acquired a tinny tone over the years. But faults and all, this remains one of great romances in film; Powell/Pressburger’s I KNOW WHERE I’M GOING/’45 one of the few to match it in sophisticated romantic sparks. Audrey Hepburn & Albert Finney make an intriguing physical mismatch that somehow fit together over a decade’s worth of changing cars & clothes covered in the film. (Hepburn’s hairstyles alone a sort of program guide keeping things straight.) Almost all the vignettes hit their mark (a car trip thru France with a ghastly married couple & their child-from-hell a particular comic horror), and the film has a mystifying way of upping the emotional ante each time we bounce back to some earlier moment in the relationship. All immeasurably helped by Henry Mancini’s graceful score; his personal favorite. It’s a very special film.

ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: Raphael is probably tougher on Finney since he’s an obvious alter-ego. (A few moments in here were revisited in his more auto-biographical AFTER THE WAR/’89 mini-series.) Check out Donen’s devastatingly brisk manner in handling a chilly one-night affair.

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