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Living Through Love

By Rory L. Aronsky
'Two for the Road'
Twentieth Century Fox
Not rated
(out of four)

No matter who she was or which way she turned, Audrey Hepburn had her own brand of beauty that continually shows why there are movies. Even though I’ve been captivated many times by Julie Delpy in “Before Sunrise,” Scarlett Johansson in “Lost in Translation” and Natascha McElhone in “The Truman Show,” Hepburn erases all of them, as if she was first and I was destined to discover the others soon after. This happens dead on in “Two for the Road,” an examination of courtship and marriage through memory, of shrewd times and hard times, of love and extreme bitterness.

The scene of this extreme captivation takes place on a boat from which Mark Wallace (Albert Finney) is about to disembark, large backpack slung behind him, ready for whatever awaits him, most likely buildings, as his architectural passions seize hold of him then and later, distracting him from Joanna (Hepburn) and Caroline, their daughter. It’s not absentmindedness, but being an architect has always been important to him, as he demonstrates when he takes a picture of a looming, foreboding church, at first not even noticing Joanna gamely standing in front of his camera, trying to pull a sliver of his attention.

On the boat, Mark can’t find his passport and begins crawling around on hands and knees beside departing passengers, trying to explain himself. He notices Joanna going through his bag, and complains about it in a way that could only be done justice by listening to Finney perform screenwriter Frederic Raphael’s words. And she finds it, smiling slightly at him in such a fashion that made me feel like I had just been introduced to the movies.

Her enigmatic beauty—which has never disgraced any outfit she’s worn, even in this movie where large yellow sunglasses almost threaten to give shade to the back of her head—feels as new today as it must have been in all her cinematic years.

The film covers all the stages of romance in 111 minutes. Mark initially isn’t happy to have Joanna hitchhike with him, as he wanted Jackie (Jacqueline Bisset), who came down with chicken pox with the rest of Joanna’s choir group. But love blooms, and ages through their second year of marriage and becomes wrinkled and cold later, as they once again travel in Europe to meet Maurice (Claude Dauphet), Mark’s boss and appreciative advice seeker.

Director Stanley Donen has never gone wrong with Hepburn, as proved with “Funny Face” and “Charade,” and in an audio commentary brought over from the laserdisc, he tells the amusing story of two assistant directors who were on hand for the scene in which Mark throws Joanna into a pool, because Hepburn was terrified of the water but agreed to perform it. The first toss into the pool happened and just as she hit the water, one of the ADs, overeager it seemed, got right into the shot to “save” her.

Though the commentary is sporadic, Donen has a lot to say about his expectations about shooting the movie (which were vastly different before he actually got on set) and also speaks of screenwriter Raphael, whose lines for these characters are pure understated perfection.

The characters are wealthy enough for this dialogue, and the quiet animosity between them is so true. Each have their reasons to be dark toward one another. Mark believes Joanna has never been fully supportive of his endeavors, while Joanna is rightly peeved at him for not always paying attention to her. It is a marriage, after all, and Donen plunders rich depths. Mark remarks to Joanna during their early travels that he has no intention to get married for at least 40 years, and is still in this mindset after he puts on the wedding ring.

Eleanor Bron and William Daniels appear as an American tourist couple with a genuine brat of a daughter and a romantic past with Mark. Daniels plays the far-too-exacting character well, giving good reason for Mark’s desire to land his fist into that bespectacled face.

The DVD also includes the trailer and a restoration comparison profiling the process of making the film look like it had just been released. It’s a gratifying relief to finally have Hepburn and Finney appear in proper widescreen, as opposed to the extreme full-screen distortion that occasionally airs on the Fox Movie Channel. And what a movie, in its proper form, for all involved. Unvarnished perfection.

rory [at]


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