The conventional wisdom in certain circles is that this quasi-sequel/companion piece to 1952's The Bad And The Beautiful is both a weak and weird sister to the prior film. I won't deny the "weird" part; in fact I revel in it. "Weak" I of course take issue with. If Bad/Beautiful was a kind of bittersweet poison pen envoi to Old Hollywood, an attempt to make the best of the attendant hangover after taking stock of the note of the last meeting, so to speak, Two Weeks is a meet-the-new-boss suicide note that only steps back from the ledge because...well, wait a minute, does it really step back from the ledge? Is the film's rushed (literally) happy end really putting the film's protagonist "back" in "business?" That's a tantalizing question, but in any event it's the journey to that question that gives the film its rush.
The connective tissue between Two Weeks and Bad/Beautiful could not be stronger. Two Weeks has the same producer (John Houseman), same music composer (David Raksin), same screenwriter (Charles Schnee), same leading man (Kirk Douglas), and, finally and crucially, same director (VIncente Minnelli) as the earlier film. And of course the same theme: the lunatic three-ring circus of movie-making. But rather than speaking with the droll confidence of talents who were up-and-coming tyros when the models for Bad/Beautiful were making their brilliant mistakes, Two Weeks barrels ahead with the near-lunatic desperation of the potentially soon-to-be-washed up. The Hollywood that Minnelli and Houseman grew up in is dying or dead, replaced by the exotica and ruthless accounting of Cinecitta and international co-production. Without any reference to the politique des auteurs, Edward G. Robinson's despotic, neurotic director boasts of the "Kruger touch" in reference to his own artistic signature. Countering him is an Italian anti-showman producer who lays out a ruthless bottom line to Kruger with not even a hint of apology for being so vulgar as to care about money. Lured into this web is the cracked actor Jack Andrus, who's been keeping himself on ice in a tony nuthouse (in a sense, this is also a kind of sequel to Minnelli's great 1955 The Cobweb). Here we find another crucial point of departure from Bad/Beautiful: whereas that film was about the various interactions and reactions of its characters to the brilliant and ruthless producer Shields, Two Weeks, even in scenes that stray from its lead character, is all about the interiority of Jack Andrus, just as Godard's soon-to-come answer film to Two Weeks, Contempt, would be all about the (empty) interiority of its screenwriter protagonist. (Contempt also responds to Two Weeks' two-bit Carlo Ponti with and Ugly American vulgarian producer played by Jack Palance.) Shields and Andrus are both, of course, portrayed by Kirk Douglas, and at the same precise emotional temperature at that. But while Shields is a force of nature, Andrus is, until the very end, fate's chump. The demons that torment Jack are deliberately ridiculous, which is one reason those who call this film a "camp" classic miss the point; the heightening here is more Breughel-by-way-of-Al-Hirschfeld. Cyd Charisse's impossible ex-wife of Jack is a cross between Jessica Rabbit and Baby Jane Hudson, or something; in any event it's the most peculiar performance Charisse had ever given, or more to the point, been asked to give. Any doubt that Minnelli knew exactly what he was doing as he upped the film's ante into ever-more absurdist realms need only check out the Three-Faces-of-Claire-Trevor shot below, in which the actress, playing Kruger's appalling harridan wife, is multiplied into a veritable chorus of harpies.
The better you know the films that surround this one—The Bad and the Beautiful, Contempt, even 8 1/2 and La Ricotta—the better you'll get this. But it is still awfully striking even on its own, and the Warner Archive disc of it is handsome indeed. There's more I could say about this film—it really is very deep, and an old favorite of mine, and Daliah Lavi, seen at top with Douglas, is both beautiful and sensitive enough in the film to inspire a good number of prose poems—but the main thing I want to convey at the moment is that you need to see it, so please do.