Two Weeks from Another Town (Minnelli, 1962)
Two Weeks in Another Town reteams key members from 1952’s The Bad and the Beautiful. These members are director Vincente Minnelli, actor Kirk Douglas, producer John Houseman and screenwriter John Schnee. Both films address similar thematic territory and take place within the film industry. The Warner Archive Collection’s manufacture-on-demand (MOD) is always going to be a needed resource for obscure titles newly available on DVD. While the quality of the films may be varied, all of these titles deserve to be made available to the public. Regrettably, in the case of Two Weeks in Another Town, Minnelli has churned out a melodramatic dud that manages to have serious flaws in almost every aspect.
Jack Andrus (Kirk Douglas), a washed out movie star, has just been released from a sanitarium for alcoholism among other reasons. He has been invited to travel to Rome to visit his frequent collaborator, director Maurice Kruger (Edward G. Robinson). Kruger and Andrus have made many films together in their prime. Kruger has invited Andrus to play a small but important role in the film he is currently shooting. Andrus accepts but he arrives only to discover that Kruger has no part for him. He merely wants to spend time with Andrus and as offers him the job as head of the dubbing process. Andrus declines at first but eventually agrees. Among the other storylines, lead actor Davie (George Hamilton) is having an identity crisis and is treating his girlfriend Veronica (Daliah Lavi) poorly. Veronica strikes up a romance with Andrus after a screening (of The Bad and the Beautiful) late one evening. Elsewhere, Jack’s ex-wife Carlotta (Cyd Charisse), who allegedly drove him to madness, is lurking around Rome hoping to get Jack in her clutches once more. Kruger’s wife Clara (Claire Trevor) is a suicidal drunkard who shrieks a lot and tries to sabotage the friendship between Andrus and her husband. Andrus and Kruger have not spoken in years Kruger cheated on Clara with Carlotta.
There are clearly many storylines and subplots threaded throughout. While the film does a decent job of establishing these threads, the execution is botched as well as the importance Schnee places on certain storylines over others. First, Jack Andrus leaving a sanatorium at the beginning is meant to heighten the tension right from the start. He is fragile, not fully recovered and has a short temper. Additionally, he will be near the people who spurred his undoing years ago. There is no reason for Andrus to have been in a sanatorium because the film never capitalizes on this piece of exposition for proper dramatic effect. It adds nothing to the film and only functions as a weak excuse to place additional tension where there is none. It is impossible to believe that Douglas’ character is actually as troubled as the film wants us to believe. The film also wants to be an examination of the nature of the film industry. Instead of exploring this issue within the confines of the story, there are a couple of blatant conversations that merely contain sets of arbitrary statements and an overreliance on self-reflexivity. It addresses its themes with no complexity, resulting in is a simple and unimaginative film.
The role of women in Two Weeks in Another Town is problematic to say the least. The only character with any self-respect is Veronica and her place in the story as the ‘perfect girl’ makes her devoid of any actual characteristics. She is there to look pretty, to say all the right words and to do all the right things. She is there to support Jack in his time of need. It is difficult to be interested in a romance when the filmmakers expect the audience to be invested because she is a good person, and not because of any complex or even discernible dynamic the two characters have. Fairing even worse are the roles of Clara and Carlotta. Clara is a shrewish harpy who shrieks and spews insults every time she gets a chance. Clara has reason to be upset; her husband cheats on her and does not care much for her as a person (although who can blame him?). The way she is portrayed is clearly sympathetic to Kruger’s perspective. Not only is Clara a weak-willed nuisance, but the film does not acknowledge her as a human being with feelings much like Kruger fails to do the same. It would be one thing if this was done this on purpose but it is not, and thus a woman’s dilemma is mean-spiritedly discarded as Trevor continues to act despicably throughout. Charisse’s Carlotta is most problematic of them all. She is the reason for Jack’s breakdown and subsequent retreat to the sanatorium. She is an extremely important character and her interactions with Jack are the scenes we expect to have the most impact and tension. Carlotta is ominously mentioned throughout the film yet she has little screen time. If her scenes were packed with an emotional and forceful punch, then showing up only a few times would have worked. Instead, Carlotta is less of a character than anybody else in the film. Outside of an obvious awareness of her own greed and selfishness, Carlotta has nothing to offer in a dramatic sense. There is nothing established between the ex-spouses in their scenes together. The audience gets no sense of her as a person or what Jack saw in her to begin with. This is an unforgivable flaw and it diffuses any palpable drama the film might have been able to have.
Vincente Minnelli tries too hard to depict Rome as exotic locale. The setting exists as an audience draw, failing to exploit the popularity of Italian cinema at the time. Minnelli knows how to use widescreen well and there certainly are some wonderful shots and a nice use of color throughout. However, Minnelli paints with broad strokes when telling this story, and he is incapable of making any one scene mean anything beyond its basic function. He is too preoccupied with the look of the film and with Rome, while little effort is put into allowing the hollow melodrama to have any meaning. There is one sequence at the end which has to be seen to be believed and it is still difficult to tell if the scene effectively does its job. It involves a self-destructive car ride and is more than a little ludicrous; the question lies in whether this is good or bad. The final scene of the film is far too quickly wrapped up and it is clear how poorly this film tells its story.
Every film in the Warner Archive’s Collection deserves the treatment it gets; that these films get to be seen outside of their occasional showings on Turner Classic Movies is an important opportunity. Visually the film looks fine apart if not spectacular and the theatrical trailer is included on the DVD. Two Weeks in Another Town is a film that only Warner enthusiasts will want to check out. It has little to offer and is indicative of a time in Hollywood when the studios were running out of ideas, were desperately trying to recycle their own stories and were embarrassingly jumping on the popularity of international cinema. The result is turgid, washed up and undeveloped; approach this film with caution.