Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Two For The Road

Preparing for bed this evening I made the mistake of switching on the radio and listened to the commencement of a discussion between three writers about the conflict between writing about personal experiences and issues of responsibility and loyalty to friends and relations, work colleagues and other living individuals with whom one wants to continue having contact of a friendly nature.

I switched off as the discussion centred on the relationship between truth and accuracy and the expression of how one felt and the extent of licence to play with the facts to create an accurate expression of how one felt at the time as well as looking back through the layers of subsequent experience. These are all dilemmas which I have had to work through and resolved, in varying degrees over the past five years. I write this at one am having gone to sleep briefly while watching NCIS Season eight ending of a sorts on the FX channel in HD, having also slept through, fortunately a different part, on Friday when the programme was first shown. I must commence the practice of recording programmes that I am watching to ensure I can catch up subsequently.

Last week my attention was engaged by Two for the Road and interesting Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn take on the stages which most relationship between normal educated middle class couple undergo. The Stanley Donen, Directed and Produced film 1967 USA film, switches between phases rather than illustrates in a chronological order, retracing journeys travelling through France to the South, a journey which I have made twice by car, twice by motor-rail and twice by coach although in the latter instance the destination was Northern Spain. The established composer Henry Mancini ( of Moon River and Breakfast at Tiffany’s fame) created the music which all added to the prospect beforehand that the film might have some depth as well as class. I was not disappointed.

The film commences as a retrospective with Finney now an international and wealthy architect, flying his Mercedes convertible to Northern France and then travel to Saint Tropez. I have camped in Saint Tropez Bay and visited the Bridget Bardot made famous town several towns.

In order to fit the basic plot the couple undertake the long journey again by car which is unlikely given their wealth. In my instance when I had become established the visit was also by a limo with air conditioning but carried by rail from Paris to Avignon, although I believe it is now possible to continue as far south as Frejus. A feature of the film is the portray of their wealth and social position through their cars. I did have an adventurous trip across the Channel to Paris, the cap d’Agde, Carcassonne and the Atlantic Coast in a tiny Fiat which was slept in once along the motorway, once in a municipal car park and a couple of times outside full campsites but where facilities where then used as well as at campsite without previous bookings. This was an impulsive trip in search of the son also taken when I was established and had the means to have flown. In the film the couple use a different vehicle on each trip including a Triumph Herald which I also possessed when still a child care officer in Oxford, having graduated from a Morris Mini Estate which was used for a camping trip covering Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France in three weeks, getting as far South as Sorrento and Pompeii going over the Grossglockner Highway and was also included visits to the Rhine, the Black Forest, Salzburg, Venice, Rome and Geneva. They also have a Microbus. I converted a Ford Minibus into a motor caravan of sorts which was used for one journey to Agde and Northern Space as well as trips to Northern France, Holland and to Belgium. The couple met when they single with Finney hitching and the Audrey travelling by coach as part of a choir where her vehicle has an accident and two go off together. They have little money, have sex, and fall in love and he proposes as she is about to return home to the USA.

The second journey is shared with friends and their obnoxious allowed to do and say what she pleases daughter with her mother played by Eleanor Bron. Such ventures rarely work out and in this instance the daughter repeats what her parents have said about the couple bring their participating to an end.

I especially liked the journey with a MG where the exhaust breaks off and catches fire. My worst experience was the accident in Italy when the windscreen broke but amazing was able to be replaced over a weekend but where I then drove the car at night into a storm ditch at the camp site. However on the camping impulse trip in the Fiat I sat on and broke the brake handle. On this trip Audrey announces her pregnancy and carless they meet a wealthy business man who immediately employs Finney for architectural work and changes his life and the marital relationship for ever.
I enjoyed the moment before this when devoid of funds they stay the night at a hotel avoiding the evening meal and going without breakfast only to find that because of the season they are charged the rate of dinner B and B reminding of the occasion when attending a social function with limited end of month funds I skipped drinks, pudding, brandy etc after which the group decided to divide up the bill and therefore had to meet the costs of their indulgences without having participated. The couple also travel with their daughter and first strains in the relationship become apparent with Finney beginning to enjoy the good life and Audrey hankering for the freedom, flexibility and spontaneity of her youth. Finney on his own has a casual relationship and then, after separation, Audrey has a more serious and lasting relationship.

Early on in the relationship one comments to the other about an evidently long term marriage where the couple eat without talking to each other. Later the same comment is made by her new partner and Audrey realises she misses her husband and they return to each other. I was reminded of a similar comment made about a couple during a meal with three colleagues during a visit as a member of the Drug Advisory service. I remember commenting that part of any long term relationship was the ability to sit in silence enjoying food and being with someone with the need to talk. There is always mote than one perspective.

On the final journey they have reached the stage when they can talk about the past and their relationship with honesty and some objectivity and they cross the border into Italy on their way to Rome thus indicating the maturity of their relationship, or at least that is the concept of the film. There was nothing new for me in the film although I suspect some couple will find moments difficult. The young then and now will not accept the generality of the story.

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