Audrey Hepburn Returns in Style in the Restoration of TWO FOR THE ROAD (1967)

Two-For-the-Road-audrey-hepburn-4320106-1554-2000Audrey Hepburn made a stylish return to the big screen in Brooklyn this week in a little known 1967 classic – with the help of some 2013 technology.

“The goal of a restoration like this one is to try to present the film as authentically as possible, to honor the original artistic achievement of the film, and to show it the way it was shown in its original premiere,” Twentieth Century Fox’s Schawn Belston said in a taped message before a screening of Stanley Donen’s TWO FOR THE ROAD on Tuesday at Nitehawk Cinema.

It’s unlikely that movie audiences in 1967 ate tater tots whilst enjoying Hepburn’s mod fashions and Albert Finney’s roguish charm in this bittersweet romantic comedy, like I did at the Williamsburg “cinema eatery.” But that’s their loss. Equally delicious was the nearly flawless 35mm print struck from the recent restoration, which was a collaboration between Fox, the Academy Film Archive and Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation.

“What we want to create, ultimately, is a sort of time machine back to 1967,” Belston said. “Since 1967, everything has changed — film stocks, digital techniques, and powerful tools now exist that allow us to do things that weren’t possible in 1967.”

blackandwhiteIronically, it took those modern techniques to return this highly visual, Oscar-nominated film to its former glory. Shot by British cinematographer Christopher Challis, a camera operator on Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s THE RED SHOES (1948) and D.P. on THE TALES OF HOFFMAN (1951), TWO FOR THE ROAD suffered from what Belston called “the ravages of time.” The original camera negative was scanned at 4K (basically four times the resolution of HD), then dirt, scratches and tears were electronically erased and the film was digitally color corrected. The original sound masters were also digitized and rebalanced and a 4K DCP was created for digital projection, along with a brand new film negative for preservation purposes. From that, 35mm release prints were struck “to allow the movie to be seen on film, the way it was originally intended.”

Shot on location in France in 1966, TWO FOR THE ROAD tracks the winding path of a 12-year relationship between architect Mark Wallace (Finney) and his eventual bride, the fiercely independent fashion plate Joanna (Hepburn). Donen, perhaps best known for musicals like SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (1952), uses ingenious, non-linear storytelling techniques to chart the ebb and flow of their love, from the giddy “meet cute,” to marriage, the birth of a child, infidelity, career success, and some very Continental ennui. Often using motor vehicles as transitional devices, Donen cuts from one time period to another, juxtaposing narrative circumstances to demonstrate the inevitable compromises of a life shared with another person.

JapaneseAt first glance (at least for me), the structure of TWO FOR THE ROAD can be confusing, and the tonal shifts – from screwball comedy to tear-jerking melodrama – can jar, but subsequent viewing reveals the stunning precision of Donen’s work. He embeds each sequence with visual clues about the date, from a 1956 Michelin travel guide, to dated inspection stickers on the ever-changing cars, as the protagonists morph from broke hitchhikers to affluent (and often unpleasant) middle-agers. Hepburn also marks the evolution with both hairstyle and clothing, morphing from gawky, longhaired schoolgirl to bitter, unfaithful wife, armored in the highest of high fashion. (At least one of her delightfully outré outfits got a hearty cheer of approval from the Nitehawk audience).

TWO FOR THE ROAD is also well remembered for its Golden Globe-nominated soundtrack by Henry Mancini, which, like the storyline, careens from poignant to light and back again. The title track alone is reprised numerous times, from lush and welling to light and playful. Mancini rerecorded his score for a popular LP, and the haunting title track was issued as a single, with a choral vocal co-written by lyricist Leslie Bricusse.

Tuesday’s screening was the sixth in Nitehawk’s Vice Presents the Film Foundation series, presented in conjunction with Vice Magazine.  A portion of the ticket price went to fund the efforts of the Film Foundation which, according to Belston, has been “directly responsible for preserving around 600 films,” since 1990.

Still to come in the Nitehawk series are William Wyler’s THE BIG COUNTRY (1958) on Tuesday, November 19, followed by Charles Laughton’s NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955) on December 17 and Barbara Loden’s WANDA (1970) on January 28. All are recommended, as are the tater tots.

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About willmckinley

Will McKinley is a New York City-based writer, producer and classic film obsessive. He’s been a guest on Turner Classic Movies (interviewed by host Robert Osborne), Sirius Satellite Radio and the TCM podcast. Will has written for PBS and his byline has appeared more than 100 times in the pages of NYC alt weeklies like The Villager and Gay City News.
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18 Responses to Audrey Hepburn Returns in Style in the Restoration of TWO FOR THE ROAD (1967)

  1. le0pard13 says:

    One cannot have enough Audrey. Still my favorite Hepburn. Good news and thanks, Will

    • willmckinley says:

      Michael, I relatively new to this movie. And I liked it much better on subsequent viewings than the first time. I really noticed the way Donen connected everything on my second viewing.

  2. Peter Gong says:

    This is the only film where the beloved Givenchy did not do her clothes. She literally chose her emsembles from various designers off-the-rack: included Mary Quant, the quintessential 1960s Mod Carnaby look. It is beautiful film. Very adult theme for 1967. Though it is confusing for its interwoven of different period; but once you get the gist, you get the story-plot. It is a bittersweet ode to love and marriage after the wedding. The hard question is is there really a happy ending.

    • willmckinley says:

      Peter, I didn’t know that. Thanks. On the one hand, the absurdity of the mod fashions is kind of hilarious. On the other, I can see what they were going for, narratively. The more distant Hepburn’s character becomes, the more she armors herself in expensive get-ups. As for the end, what’s your interpretation of the car splitting into two and going both ways around the roundabout? Mine is that Donen is saying the relationship still may go either way. It’s unresolved, open-ended.

  3. Kim Britt says:

    When movies I saw in initial release start turning up as classic films, I guess I have turned that corner into early dotage. But, this film was entrancing to my 13 year old self when I saw it, I remember feeling very adult & knowing when I left the theatre, and her mod clothes were just the thing in 1967! The restoration sounds great!

  4. So happy to read about all your exploits, Will! Thanks for sharing so I can live vicariously through all your fun!

  5. Robby says:

    I know this film was released a few years ago on DVD, do you expect there will be an upcoming blu release of this restored version? And sounds like there arevsome fantastic films coming up next! Wish I could be there for THE BIG COUNTRY!

  6. kimalysong says:

    One of the rare cases where her Co-star couldn’t be her father.

    • willmckinley says:

      Kim that is sad but true. Although honestly, I don’t think she has great chemistry with Finney in this movie. Their relationship feels a bit labored to me, even though I have come to love the film. Audrey Hepburn is a fascinating screen presence. There’s something distant and unattainable about her. I think that’s part of why she’s one of the great timeless icons of classic film.

  7. Audrey looks fabulous in these photos.

    I just did an online search for the Williamsburg Eatery and I am a little envious. It looks like a wonderful place where nothing bad ever happens. ;)

    You write about the coolest things in your blog, which is why I’m a big fan.

  8. I love, love, love this film. It’s my favorite Hepburn title. I once went to a screening in my 20s hoping to find my soul mate sitting in the audience. Instead there was a handful of really skeezy dudes hunched down in their seats.

  9. Sarah says:

    Love these photos. I really appreciate all the information in here Will, when you do this, I always, always, always look at these films in a new way……and it’s a lot of fun. Having the info that’s normally stored in your head is so enlightening for me. I appreciate this!

    Now, I have to go find those glasses….
    Happy Sunday!

  10. allen993 says:

    I Have Never Heard Of Audrey Hepburn’s Movie “Two For The Road” Before And I Bet She Is Fine
    Actress!

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