Monday, February 11, 2013


This film from 1970 continues the genre of "existential road movie"  that sprung up at around the same time and included such films as TWO-LANE BLACKTOP and EASY RIDER.  Generally,  they depict an individual or individuals who seem to have freed themselves  from societal constraints and pay a high personal sum for their "otherness".  Unlike EASY RIDER (1969),  VANISHING POINT has hardly aged at all,  as Kowalski (Barry Newman) isn't mired in any sort of counter-cultural concern.  His history is seen in a series of flashbacks that help us understand his present actions,  yet we still question his motivation as the film progresses. The basic premise here is a bet he makes with a friend (a drug dealer)  that he can deliver a muscle car (a 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T 440 Magnum) to California from Colorado in a weekend,  and in doing so satisfy some ambiguous personal need. Cleavon Little as "Super Soul",  a blind Black DJ follows his journey and speaks directly to him  via the car radio as a sort of combination greek chorus and cheer leader.  The people (hippies,  a snake handler,  some gay men,  racists,  a nude female motorcyclist) Kowalski encounters on his odyssey help illuminate his character and his need for freedom.  While some may consider Kowalski's undoing at the film's end a "downer",  one could also interpret his charge toward light and eternity in terms of both hope and redemption,  something that was about to change drastically as the Seventies limped along.  

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