Lonely Roads on Screen
Two-Lane Blacktop is a film I have heard about and one that I have been curious to see. I like road movies when there is depth to them and I particularly like that period of of film making in the late 1960's and early 1970's where everything was wide open and filmmakers were making films they could never have made before. Filmmakers haven't had that same freedom that they had in this period, although the influence of the period can be felt in some of the more interesting directors in America. Richard Linklater is a fan of this film as well, and having seen it finally I can see its influence all over a healthy portion of his work. (see his 16 reasons to love Two-Lane Blacktop)
The film has completely captivated me in a way that a lot of films don't. It has reached down and touched something deep inside me. I find myself just thinking about it and its stark portrayal of the American landscape off of Route 66, the cars, the stoney, introverted awkward silence and moments of speech. It makes me wish I had an old car to go off across the country.
Hellman used three non-actors and one veteran character actor for his four principles. (not including the '55 Chevy Bel Air and the 1970 Pontiac GTO) Warren Oates - a personal favourite of mine- drives the emotional core of the film as the desperately lonely character simply titled "GTO" in the credits. Singer-Songwriter James Taylor plays "The Driver". Former Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson plays "The Mechanic" and a then 17 year old girl named Laurie Bird plays "The Girl". The chemistry works and I don't think that three professional actors could have played these roles half as convincingly - smoother definitely but nothing as real. Linklater is right, the ending is purely cinematic and beautifully one.
I'm not going to say too much more, you should watch the film for yourself. I do think it is a shame that the film was sabotaged by the studio, it deserves as high a place (if not higher) in film history than Easy Rider. I'd actually like to see if the drive-in theatre in town (if it still exists) would be interested in a triple bill: Two-Lane Blacktop, Vanishing Point and Dazed and Confused.
Ummm.... If anyone is thinking about a Christmas present for me, this would be a good idea. It is a Criterion disk so it will cost.