Sad to learn that Stanley Donen has died at age 94. He was the last surviving notable director of Hollywood's Golden Age.
Stanley's recognized for helming such fine films as "On The Town", "Singin' In The Rain", "Charade" and so many others. But for my money, one of the best Donen outings is 1967's "Two For The Road" (which I touched on recently lamenting the death of Albert Finney).
The film's about a husband and wife who examine their twelve-year relationship while on a road trip to southern France. Starring Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney as Joanna and Mark Wallace, it was considered somewhat experimental for its time. Why? Simply because the story is told featuring scenes from the latter stages of the couple's relationship intermixed with those from its beginning. This leaves the viewer to interpret what has intervened (horrors!! imagine having to think while watching an engrossing movie). Many sensational European locations are featured to show continuity throughout the twelve-year period.
To me, it is this travelling back and forth between the years that makes the film so engrossing. That, and fine acting from the two stars and a brilliant score by the legendary Henry Mancini (who wrote many notable theme songs for films, yet considered "Two for the Road" his favorite of all).
I actually gave a DVD of the film to my son and future daughter-in-law at the time of their engagement, telling them to learn from the movie how easy it can be to take a beautiful relationship for granted. Because that's what gets lost in all the hoopla about challenging time frames: Joanna and Mark have a relationship that's made in the stars, but they allow complacency to pull it part. The film also avoids a typical Hollywood happy ending, rather leaving it up to the viewer to decide what awaits the couple as they cross the border from France into Italy, representing a move into new grounds and perhaps a more sensible future.
Highly respected for his contribution to the evolution of the Hollywood musical – surely a most deserved recognition – Stanley Donen will remain on my list of top directors due to "Two For The Road".
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