Road to Nowhere is the first feature by Monte Hellman the Great since 1989's Silent Night, Deadly Night 3, an ignoble last chapter, that, for an artist who at his peak (Two-Lane Blacktop, Cockfighter) superbly combined an absurdist worldview and snapshot-authentic Middle America.
But rather than rehashing the old hits, 79-year-old Hellman has ranged out here. With an almost quaint self-reflexiveness but state-of-the-art digital filmmaking, Road concerns the production of a film based on a controversial lovers' double-suicide in North Carolina.
Director Mitchell Haven (Tygh Runyan) is determined to have a young
undiscovered (Shannyn Sossamon) for his lead--unaware that he's actually
cast the True Crime character's real-life basis, living incognito after
faking her death. Sossamon, with her geometric elegance and placid
voice, is a captivating muse--especially good are her scenes running
lines with co-star Cliff De Young.
While juggling Mitchell and his star's on-set affair, the interference
of a conspiracy-minded blogger (Dominique Swain) and rockabilly
insurance investigator (Waylon Payne), and sundry international
intrigues, Road remains a purposefully immobile, downbeat "thriller."
The screenplay is by Variety editor Stephen Gaydos, and combines a
working knowledge of on-set dynamics with corny cinephile in-joking,
frequently elevated by the fresh evidence of Hellman's craft in the
tranquil, largely nocturnal atmosphere, until the closing-credits song
See Road to Nowhere at Miami Beach Cinematheque, starting this Friday.
On Thursday night, see Hellman's Two-Lane Blacktop as well as a webcast
Q&A with the director, who will discuss Two-Lane Blacktop and his
latest film Road to Nowhere.
Here are filmmaker's Richard Linklater's 16 reasons to love Two-Lane Blacktop:
1. Because it's the purest American road movie ever.
2. Because it's like a drive-in movie directed by a French new wave director.
3. Because the only thing that can get between a boy and his car
obsession is a girl, and Laurie Bird perfectly messes up the oneness
between the Driver, the Mechanic, and their car.
4. Because Dennis Wilson gives the greatest performance ever . . . by a drummer.
5. Because James Taylor seems like a refugee from a Robert Bresson
movie, and has the chiseled looks of Artaud from Dreyer's The Passion of
Joan of Arc.
6. Because there was once a god who walked the earth named Warren Oates.
7. Because there's a continuing controversy over who is the actual lead
in this movie. There are different camps. Some say it's the '55 Chevy,
some say it's the GTO. But I'm Goat man, I have a GTO--'68.
8. Because it has the most purely cinematic ending in film history.
9. Because it's like a western. The guys are like old-time gunfighters,
ready to outdraw the quickest gun in town. And they don't talk about
the old flames they've had, but rather old cars they've had.
10. Because Warren Oates has a different cashmere sweater for every occasion. And of course the wet bar in the trunk.
11. Because unlike other films of the era, with the designer alienation
of the drug culture and the war protesters, this movie is about the
alienation of everybody else, like Robert Frank's The Americans come
12. Because Warren Oates, as GTO, orders a hamburger and an
Alka-Seltzer and says things like "Everything is going too fast and not
13. Because it's both the last film of the sixties--even though it came
out in '71--and also the first film of the seventies. You know, that
great era of "How the hell did they ever get that film made at a
studio?/Hollywood would never do that today" type of films.
14. Because engines have never sounded better in a movie.
15. Because these two young men on their trip to nowhere don't really
know how to talk. The Driver doesn't really converse when he's behind
the wheel, and the Mechanic doesn't really talk when he's working on the
car. So this is primarily a visual, atmospheric experience. To watch
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this movie correctly is to become absorbed into it.
16. And, above all else, because Two-Lane Blacktop goes all the way
with its idea. And that's a rare thing in this world: a completely