Two For The Road
Released By: Twilight Time
January 17, 2017.
Audrey Hepburn, Albert Finney, Eleanor Bron, William Daniels, Gabrielle Middleton
Purchase From Screen Archives
Mark Wallace (Albert Finney) is a successful architect, flying down to St. Tropez to meet with a wealthy client of his. Along for the ride is his wife, Joanna (Audrey Hepburn) and their Mercedes, with the intent to complete the last leg of the journey on four wheels, a throwback to the couples' care-free days of promising road-trips across the European countryside. But unlike those passionate days of old, this trip finds the two former lovebirds verbally jabbing at each other from the moment they're out of the gate, wondering aloud how they ended up together and why they don't just give it all up and go their separate ways.
Which leads to the first and primary of Two For The Road's plot devices, a clever segue to a flashback, in which Joanna and Mark are meeting for the first time, on a cross-channel ferry. He can't find his passport...something that will happen again in his lifetime....and she is a member of a traveling girls' singing group. Joining up with the group of musical gals later on in the film, Mark's affection for another girl (Jacqueline Bisset) is thwarted by fate when the chicken pox strike, leaving Mark and Joanna the only ones healthy enough to travel on. En route, the two engage in conversation that defines their ideals of love and happiness; Mark is convinced that marriage is the end-game for all women, who all want him and use sex as bait; and Joanna believes that sex, marriage, and children are the trifecta required for a satisfyingly happy life.
A series of adventures, all involving travel and talking at different points in their relationships shows a gradual evolution of character as Mark and Joanna bond together through times of trouble and adventure, the former eventually swinging his opinions over to align with Joanna's. Mark's affection becomes evident when the couple aggressively break off a comically unpleasant couples trip with Marks' former girlfriend (Eleanor Bron), her husband, and annoying child, and later joyously welcomes Joanna's own surprise news of being pregnant. Still, as the years go on and Mark's business becomes more successful, their pleasant days together become a series of tension-building, work-based vacations full of frustrations; difficulties that lead to time alone and infidelity. As the story brings the viewer back to the present, Mark and Joanna have to acknowledge the many crossroads that they have reached in the past, and decide which direction to continue in.
The word "timeless" gets thrown around a fair bit in the film world, and it rarely applies; however, in the case of Two For The Road, the combination of actors and crew talent have certainly earned the term. Raphael's story is definitely a tale that many couples in various stages of their relationships have lived, and Hepburn and Finney bring the wonder, the apathy, the uncertainty, and the boorish determination to the screen in a manner that seems effortless. Whether intentional or not, Christopher Challis' cinematography has done wonders for Two For The Road; utilizing a colour palette that is indicative of the era of the 60's, with bold, aggressive colours, combined with wardrobe's use of cutting-edge styles, the look of the film exists comfortably today...as modern as it ever was. And while there are some amusing tells that it's anything but....cigarette girl on an airplane, what?...taking in Two For The Road visually requires no mental concentration to remove the last four decades.
If there was any one particular nitpick to address with the film, it's that the use of flashbacks from different eras that pop up without warning do take some getting used to, and one can certainly imagine that this was a sticking point for the audiences of the late 60's. However, once the viewer is able to settle in with these redirects, the abilities of Director Stanley Donen, and perhaps Frederic Raphael, have to be admired with the creative manner in which these flashbacks are employed.
Twilight Time brings Two For The Road to Blu-ray in a stunning AVC-encoded 2.35:1 transfer that leaps off of the screen with wonderful colour saturation that is indicative of the era of the film...very pop, very mod. Grain structure remains intact but does not interfere with brilliant clarity and detail, with deep blacks offsetting the bright colour palette and showcasing Christopher Challis' beautiful cinematography. For a four decades-old film, print damage, dirt, and debris was absent throughout.
Primary audio tracks for the film come courtesy of two English DTS-HD Master Audio tracks, a 1.0 and a 2.0. While both are perfectly serviceable, I found the 1.0 track to sound slightly more rounded out, with good range and a pleasant balancing between dialogue and the Mancini score. Though it did occasionally present moments of harshness with the spoken word, this is a decent track. Par for the course for Twilight Time releases, an Isolated Score track is also presented if you'd like to hear Henry Mancini's score take centre stage.
English Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing are available for this release.
First up in the extras is a Fox Movietone News Reel (1:45), some nice black and white footage of the Oscars. Though no footage audio is available, pleasant music plays alongside of it, allowing a glimpse at the starts of yesteryear before the Oscars got dumb.
A Trailer is also included for the film.
Two commentaries are available for this release, the first courtesy of Twilight Time's Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo. The wordy commentary from the enthusiastic two covers a wide variety of topics, including a bio of writer Frederic Raphael, the daring use of the non-linear film style, development of the characters, and the timeless look of the film. As always, Redman and Kirgo are full of information both directly related to the film and movie trivia bits that hover in the atmosphere around it.
A second commentary with Director Stanley Donen is taken from an interview, and after a brief introduction of Mr. Donen's career, discusses the mixed response of the audience to the film's lead characters, the similarities between writer Frederic Raphael and Mark Wallace, and "The Donk" sound effect used to show the limitations of the MG's engine. Though there is a lot of good information in here, this "commentary" is pretty gappy.
The Final Word:
Though it would be easy to write this off as "quirky", Two For The Road is a timeless look at the relationship between married people and the sliding scale of apathy that legally binding union often brings on. Twilight Time's Blu-ray presents the film just shy of immaculately.
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