Audrey Hepburn kicked off the 53rd edition of the New York Film Festival in style on Friday, as the Film Society of Lincoln Center screened Stanley Donen’s TWO FOR THE ROAD (1967) as part of a day of free classics restored by Fox and the Film Foundation.
Shot on location in France, TWO FOR THE ROAD tracks the romantic twists and turns between architect Mark Wallace (Albert Finney) and his eventual bride, the increasingly (and often outlandishly) modish Joanna. Donen uses ingenious, non-linear storytelling techniques to chart the ebb and flow of their 12-year relationship, from the giddy “meet cute,” to marriage, the birth of a child, infidelity, career success, and some very Continental ennui. Often using cars (with dated inspection stickers) as transitional devices, Donen cuts from one time period to another, juxtaposing narrative circumstances to demonstrate the compromises of couplehood.
The film 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. Shot by British cinematographer Christopher Challis, a camera operator on Powell and Pressburger’s THE RED SHOES (1948), TWO FOR THE ROAD was rescued from the ravages of time with the Film Foundation’s meticulous 4K restoration, which looked stunning in DCP at the Film Society’s Francesca Beale Theater.
The day began on Friday with an eye-popping restoration of John Ford’s DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK (1939), the director’s first Technicolor film. Based on the 1936 novel by Walter D. Edmonds set during the Revolutionary War, MOHAWK tells the tale of plain-speaking farmer Gil Martin (Henry Fonda, of course) and his new bride Lana (Claudette Colbert) as they attempt to settle in New York without benefit of subways, bodegas or rent-stabilized apartments. Soon war intervenes, as a one-eyed Tory scoundrel (John Caradine) leads a raiding party of torch-wielding Indians against the settlers, and the locals – men and women, alike – must take up arms to fight for their land and their lives.
Like all Ford films, MOHAWK is filled with familiar faces, including Ward Bond and Francis Ford (the director’s older brother), but the best of the bunch is Edna May Oliver as a wealthy widow who hires Gil and Lana. The Technicolor cameras make Oliver look years younger than she seems in black and white films of the era (with some surprisingly ruddy cheeks), but she still delivers the sour-pussed shenanigans classic film fans love her for.
Ford and cinematographers Bert Glennon and Ray Rennahan pack DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK with one stunning shot after another (including a few that made me gasp yesterday). Every close-up looks like a beautifully painted portrait, but the stand-outs for me are Colbert in a bonnet when she meets her new neighbors, Carradine calling the Senecas to attack from the fog, and Fonda pursued by Indians as the sun rises behind them. Even if you’re not a fan of historical dramas from the Studio Era, this film will knock your britches off.
In addition to the two I saw, the Film Society also screened John M. Stahl’s LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN (1945), Elia Kazan’s WILD RIVER (1960), Bob Fosse’s ALL THAT JAZZ (1979) and Martin Scorsese’s THE KING OF COMEDY (1982) on Friday. All are available on Blu-ray except TWO FOR THE ROAD, my favorite of the bunch. Somebody needs to rectify that soon (so I can silently weep in the comfort of my own apartment).
Over the next 17 days, the New York Film Festival will debut some of the most anticipated films of the awards season. But in addition to high profile premieres like THE WALK, BRIDGE OF SPIES and STEVE JOBS (plus a sneak preview of Ridley Scott’s THE MARTIAN), the NYFF will also feature more than a dozen films, documentaries and events of interest to classic movie lovers. Most have been restored, one is making its North American premiere, and two – John Ford’s THE LONG VOYAGE HOME (1940) and Ernst Lubitsch’s HEAVEN CAN WAIT (1943) – will be presented in newly struck 35 mm prints from Fox. Seven of the films in the lineup will screen in honor of the 25th anniversary of Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation – one, with Scorsese in attendance.
The NYFF will also co-host a tribute to documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles, who died in March at age 88. The free event will take place Sunday, October 4 at 10 AM at Alice Tully Hall and will feature appearances by family members, special guests and selections from his films. Tickets are free and will be distributed an hour before the event.
Finally, a new documentary honoring Ingrid Bergman on her centenary will play twice at NYFF – Monday, October 5 at 6 PM the Walter Reade Theater and Tuesday, October 6 at 8:30 PM at the Howard Gilman Theater – both with director Stig Bjorkman in person. According to the Film Society, INGRID BERGMAN – IN HER OWN WORDS “is composed from her letters and diaries (extracts of which are read by Alicia Vikander), the memories of her children (Pia Lindström and Isabella, Ingrid, and Roberto Rossellini), and a few close friends and colleagues (including Liv Ullmann and Sigourney Weaver), photographs, and moments from thousands of feet of Super-8 and 16mm footage shot by Bergman herself.”
Here’s a schedule for revivals playing at the New York Film Festival:
Sunday, September 27
12 PM Marcel Ophuls’ THE MEMORY OF JUSTICE (1976) at the Walter Reade Theater (DCP, with Marcel Ophuls in person)
Monday, September 28
6 PM Lino Brocka’s INSIANG (1976) at the Francesca Beale Theater (Restored, in DCP)
Wednesday, September 30 – standby tickets only
9 PM Brian De Palma’s BLOW OUT (1980) at the Walter Reade Theater (DCP)
Thursday, October 1
6 PM Ernst Lubitsch’s HEAVEN CAN WAIT (1943) at Alice Tully Hall (Restored, in 35mm, followed by Q&A w/ Martin Scorsese)
Friday, October 2 – standby tickets only
9 PM Kurosawa’s RAN (1985) at the Walter Reade Theater (Restored, in DCP)
Sunday, October 4
12 PM Manoel de Oliveira’s VISIT, OR MEMORIES AND CONFESSIONS (1982) at the Walter Reade Theater (North American premiere, in 35mm)
2 PM Luchino Visconti’s ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS (1960) at the Walter Reade Theater (Restored, in DCP)
Monday October 5
9 PM King Hu’s A TOUCH OF ZEN (1971/1975) at the Walter Reade Theater (Restored, in DCP)
Tuesday October 6
8:30 PM Ousmane Sembene’s BLACK GIRL (1965) at the Francesca Beale Theater (Restored, in DCP)
Wednesday, October 7
6:00 PM John Ford’s THE LONG VOYAGE HOME (1940) at the Francesca Beale Theater (Restored, in 35mm)
Friday October 9
6:00 PM Hou Hsiao-hsien’s THE BOYS FROM FENGKUEI (1983) at the Walter Reade Theater (Restored, in DCP, with Hou Hsiao-hsien in person)
The NYFF offers a discount when you purchase tickets to three or more revival screenings. For more info on that, click here.