BluRay/DVD Reviews

TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN

By • Feb 2nd, 2011 •

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The Archives releases seem arbitrarily chosen, except on the occasions when they package several titles from the same series, or with the same actor (the exciting recent Lon Chaney titles, for eg). One waits for the periodic gems to surface among the rest. TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN is such a bauble. Few greater examples of Trash-Art exist, because it takes a great director to make great trash, and it was directed by Vincente (AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, SOME CAME RUNNING) Minnelli. It establishes a kindred link to his earlier masterpiece,1950’s THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL. Some of the key filmmakers involved overlap both films (Producer John Housemen, lead actor Kirk Douglas, composer David Raksin, and screenwriter Charles Schnee), and it is, as the former was, a cynical take on the film biz. The earlier one was lush, and this one is lurid, the earlier was in B&W, this one is in muddy color. A few clips from the former film are even screened during one scene in the new one. Outside of this handful of juicy connections, however, the two productions are radically different.

Jack Andrus (Kirk Douglas) is on rough terrain. Almost recovered (but still exhibiting residual anxieties and vulnerabilities) from a lengthy nervous breakdown, he gets involved with a film being directed in Italy by old-timer Maurice Kruger (feisty Edward G. Robinson), with whom he worked in the good old days, and really gives it his ethical best when the elder helmer goes down with cardiac failure. But as they say in the biz, when things go wrong, “Blame the innocent,” and so it goes. No good deed goes unpunished.

Other celluloid names sprinkled about the wide screen are Cyd Charisse (loud and effective), George Hamilton (loud and…George Hamilton), Daliah Lavi (quite good), Claire Trevor (good), James Gregory (not memorable), Rosanna Schiaffino (who I kept mistaking for Daliah Lavi, and because of that, her seeming multiple personality-like emotional reversals had me real confused), George Macready (early in the film Douglas smacks the pipe out of his mouth, a wild moment), and Leslie (her debut) Uggums..

Minnelli must have had dozens, if not hundreds, of real life scenarios to borrow from in spinning out the script, which drastically alters Irwin Shaw’s novel. When it comes to venal goings-on in the land of LaLa, he was in a position to observe it all for decades. And the same scenarios were apparently visited upon this very production, including Minnelli’s own indulgences, having just come off the debacle of THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE (an Archive title), an experience which left him drained. Filming went on and on, pushing the film over budget to a figure it only half recouped.

The director is best lauded today for his mise-en-scene – lavish, Technicolor art direction (though Metrocolor seems to have betrayed him here, and the DVD transfer doesn’t improve on the contrasty, ugly hues), and for his melodramatic directorial brush-strokes. Well, this one goes right over the top – he splashed the whole paint-box on this canvas. The film’s got acromegaly of the Art Department. It might have been deservedly dismissed if essayed by a lesser director, but Minnelli embodies the frames with something special, highly energized, and decadent-yet-true at its tawdry visual core. It’s a grand, guilty pleasure to sit through, and one you’ll never forget. It’s also one you’ll return to, either with friends, or alone. Jean-Luc Godard chose it as one of the ten best films of 1963, so how wrong can you go?

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