Last night I caught an Albert Finney double-bill at the American Cinematheque. Stanley Donen‘s Two For The Road (’67), which I’d never really seen all the way through, and Alan Parker and Bo Goldman‘s Shoot The Moon (’82), which I caught 36 and 1/2 years ago at a Manhattan press screening.
Donen’s film is almost all pillow feathers. Sometimes charming, often lethargic or under-energized, breezy, laid-back, limp and very middle-class. And lazy as fuck. Definitely lazy. And almost never funny. It never gets out of second gear.
Finney seems to bark every damn line, and I didn’t believe he and Audrey Hepburn had ever had good sex, and that, we’re told, is the life force that has kept their marriage going. Plus the whole thing is over-lighted, and this makes it all feel a bit staid and studio-approved. Every scene feels like something created for a film aimed at a 40-plus crowd.
I could feel the attitudes of affluent mid ‘60s America all through Two For The Road. The time-jumpy, in-and-out hopscotch script (i.e., takes on a declining marriage over a dozen years but always during road trips in rural France) was regarded as loose and unconventional at the time (which it was), but it’s probably one of the most carefully staged and “safe”-feeling road movies ever made.
Compare it to the anarchic road-movie aesthetic of Bertrand Blier‘s Going Places — they were shot on two different planets.
Finney was about seven years younger than Hepburn during filming, and looks it. She was around 37 during filming, and he was 29 or 30. And I’m sorry but I just didn’t feel anything carnal from her — that string-bean body, those overly mascara’ed eyes and funny-looking feet. I just didn’t feel the chemistry.
Deadline‘s Pete Hammond has been telling me for years and years that Two For The Road is his all-time favorite film, so I’m partly blaming him for what I went through tonight.
Shoot The Moon drove me nuts from the get-go, mainly because of the use of solitary weeping scenes (three or four within the first half-hour) and the relentless chaotic energy from the four impish daughters of Finney and Diane Keaton. It was getting late and I just couldn’t take it. I bailed at the 45-minute mark.