Fortnight Elsewhere

I don’t know, I thought MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL was pretty good for what it was.

The film is TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN, in which Vincente Minnelli dives into la dolce vita with Kirk Douglas and Edward G Robinson shooting a euro-pudding super-film in Rome, 1959.

Here, they seem to have acquired the wallpaper from VERTIGO.

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Maybe it’s the fault of Irwin Shaw’s source novel, but the movie, often seen as a follow-up to the Minnelli-Douglas Hollywood melo THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, sometimes seems to lack logic — characters do whatever is required to bring on the next emotional frenzy. One second Robinson is scorning his desperate wife’s suicidal tendencies, the next she’s sympathising with him about his creative crisis. Their joint betrayal of another character at the end seems under-motivated or under-explained, but is nevertheless powerful — it’s a movie where power, exemplified by the jutting, dimpled Easter Island chin of Mr Douglas, is more important than sense. Just like the industry it deals with, in fact.

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George Hamilton is quite good, stropping about pouting, Rosanna Schiaffino is sweet, Daliah Lavi is a lot of fun as a luscious but fiery diva. We get a few minutes of gorgeous George MacReady, and Erich Von Stroheim Jnr plays an assistant while simultaneously BEING the real-life assistant director on the picture. Douglas does his usual muscular angst, amped up to eleven.

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In fact, everybody’s playing it big, broad, and on the nose, including composer David Raksin, who seems to be competing with Claire Trevor for the Volume and Hysteria Prize (given out every year at Cinecitta). I didn’t mind, though — there are acerbic comments on life and movies which sometimes feel accurate or at least heartfelt, and Minnelli trumps up an incredible climax as Kirk falls off the wagon and endures a long night of the soul in a series of Felliniesque night spots. As with SOME CAME RUNNING, Minnelli has saved so many of his big guns for this sequence that it almost feels like another movie, that other movie being TOBY DAMMIT. If Fellini influenced Minnelli, it obviously worked the other way too, as Terence Stamp’s nocturnal Ferrari phantom ride seems very much influenced by the screeching rear projection ordeal Kirk puts Cyd Charisse and his Lambourgine through.

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12 Responses to “Fortnight Elsewhere”

  1. David Boxwell Says:

    I love to watch it in tandem with Godard’s CONTEMPT (roughly contemporary): a double heapin’ helpin’ of bestial Palance-Douglas savagery.

  2. david wingrove Says:

    Minnelli at his most fabulously excessive. Love it!

  3. That spinning car ride is one of the greatest sequences in Minnelli’s melding of musical movement and melodrama.

  4. Ant the projection room in CONTEMPT does recall the one in TWO WEEKS.

  5. Absolutely. It makes you want to compile some kind of meaningless list of great screening room scenes, from Citizen Kane on.

  6. You took the words right out of my keypad Mr. Boxwell. The late, great and much-missed Steven Harvey called it The Bad and the Beautiful’s Little Dividend

    In the party scene where Leslie Uggams sings “Don’t Blame Me” you can spot Rudi Gernreich muse Peggy Moffat gazing at a piece of “Viincente Minnelli Yellow” chiffon as it wafts down from the balcony where Cyd Charisse is getting busy with Stephen Peck — “Raymond” in Some Came Running. Peck was discovered by (wait for it)

    Norma Shearer.

    George Hamilton is delightful as a character clearly meant to be read as Monty Clift but whose nervous energy is closer to Tony Perkins. That Dahlia Lavi supposedly brings him back to heterosexuality is . . .most amusing.

  7. Kirk, with his car crash trauma past, seems like a riff on Clift too, though of course there’s no hint of sexual ambiguity for him. Hamilton is very Perkins-like indeed — surprised me he could pull that off.

  8. david wingrove Says:

    Personally, I’m not the least bit surprised!

  9. What I mean is, I never saw him as that good an actor. He’s quite effective in this. He has a gorilla-like arm swing (very David Warner in MORGAN) that’s all his own, though.

  10. david wingrove Says:

    Unless you’ve seen George Hamilton as a macho Mexican revolutionary in VIVA MARIA, you truly haven’t lived!

  11. He’s more man than Zapata could ever be!

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