Friday, January 25, 2013


This little seen movie (directed by Monte Hellman) from 1971 has been on my list of must-see movies for as long as I can remember. I distinctly remember reading about it in a 1970 issue of Rolling Stone when that magazine's counter-cultural credentials still meant something.  One of the essays that accompanies this Blu-ray release on Criterion speaks of the shattering social milieu that anoints this and so many other films of this era in clearly existential terms:  "It is a movie about loneliness,  and the attempts made by people to connect with one another and maintain their solitude at the same impossible task,  an elusive dream." It certainly has more in common with the French cinema of the time (think Godard) than previous Hollywood productions,   except for the iconic use of American vehicles as protagonists unto themselves.  While the dialogue is fairly minimal the main characters here (James Taylor/The Driver,  Dennis Wilson/The Mechanic,  Laurie Bird/The Girl,  and especially Warren Oates/GTO) seem lost in their visions of themselves,  all seeking refuge in vast roadways,  delusions,  and outright lies.  Oates seems especially lost in his emotions,  picking up hitchhikers along the way with little or no connection,   all for a chance to share his dreams.   What I like about this film is its ambiguity,  its elasticity of meaning and intent,  and the human dead ends encountered along the way. It's a road movie without destination,  much like everyone's journey. Inertia artfully presented.

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