Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Two Weeks in Another Town (Vincente Minnelli, 1962)


Vincente Minnelli’s Two Weeks in Another Town might seem overly self-referential in numerous respects: it’s a risk inherent in movies about movie-making, amplified here by the use of Minnelli’s own The Bad and the Beautiful to denote former and perhaps no longer attainable glories. The film transcends that trap partly because its love of the cinematic process is so palpable, immersing us in the atmosphere around the set and such things as the mechanics of dubbing; more broadly in the way that even a once-great filmmaker might lose his way with actors, with the cinematic apparatus itself. Minnelli himself of course evidences no such decline here, generating one amazingly expressive widescreen composition after another, culminating in a wildly self-purging nighttime car ride staged as a deliriously abstracted, swirling spectacle. It’s a work built on multiple personal fragilities, Kirk Douglas’ Jack Andrus leaving a high-end clinic (shades of Minnelli’s earlier The Cobweb) and coming to Rome (depicted here as a site of churn and displacement and shifting relationships) in the hope of resurrecting his Oscar-winning but now devastated acting career under the guidance of Edward G. Robinson’s legendary director Maurice Kruger. Virtually from arrival, Andrus is taunted by actual or metaphoric reminders of past traumas; the elements aligning, as if guided by a therapeutic universe, to allow him a chance of comprehensive personal and professional renewal, before further setbacks point the way to a final equilibrium. The Andrus-Kruger interactions provide a memorably toxic central plank, the two men loving and resenting each other in roughly equal measure, Kruger’s outreach at once redeeming and destructive – he’s last seen in bed staring off into space after delivering his final blow, like a man imploding from the force of his own impossibility (and left under the thumb of his wife, with whom he has – if it’s possible – an even more spectacularly passive-aggressive relationship).

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