Archive for the ‘ROAD MOVIE’ Category

Two-Lane Blacktop

25 Apr

Two-Lane Blacktop — directed by Monte Hellman. Road Picture. Two cars race across the U.S. to Washington D.C. 102 minutes. Color 1971.


The resuscitation of this film appears like King Tut’s tomb, for it is presented with all its golden burial items: two discs, with extras, and the full screenplay, and a booklet of reviews and notices and appreciations of yore. I did not see it when it came out. The first time I saw Rudy Wurlitzer who wrote it we were both stark naked in the locker room when we were undergraduates at Columbia together and the last time I saw him was in his place on East 14 Street (am I right?) where a very pregnant Viva was banging at his door unceasingly. This piece and Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid had received all sorts of interesting attention, (“Rolling Stone” articles hardly qualifies Two-Lane Blacktop for underground classichood: After all, the screenplay was publish in its entirely in Esquire), and envy won the day, and I declined to attend. This was foolish, for the film is simple and good. I am not quite sure it should have been made in color, but it is. But I also stayed away because James Taylor was in it, and I objected to singing stars in high drama, although I saw Pat Garrett which had two of them, and Rudy and I talked about that too, but more of that elsewhere. The James Taylor music was of a younger generation, and my romantic days were over, and I was bitter, although there was a song, “Fire and Rain,” sung in a big plain style that moved me wholly then, although I didn’t know who was singing it or who had written it. I figured James Taylor was a mellow fellow, and also Jello. I figured he was too accessible. And I didn’t like his nasty face. You see, I was wrong all along. With his young man’s voice, James Taylor (an enneagram 6, I do believe) is still doing what he did then; he has not evolved – but that’s because he was born evolved. He was born as what he was meant to be – a voice — although he certainly has husbanded his gifts – and here he is only 22, and he doesn’t sing at all. What is there to object to? I’ll tell you what. He is not an actor, and there are two other principles in the piece who are not actors either. They can’t speak lines. Regarding cars, you never believe a word that mechanic says about engines. What you do believe is his and Taylor’s taciturnity. But it is a silly bias to imagine that people who are quiet are more profound than those with a lot to say. The trouble is that there is one real actor in the piece, and it is so noticeable such that when Warren Oates appears everyone else disappears, because he really belongs up there and the others don’t. Wurlitzer has written a marvelous part for him, the part of a know-it all fabulist whose dreams of grandeur and great accomplishment actually formulate the story and underpin the truth of the piece. I was held by it. The director is extremely shrewd in his disposition of his “performers”, and it is his pleasure to wring many variations on his theme, turning it inside out and upside down without ever betraying its integrity. Everything in Two-Lane Blacktop seems just and fair – and also eccentric since it is a picaresque adventure in which Dulcinea goes along for the ride. The picture is better now than it ever could have been before because it is free of the trappings of its fad — the hollow halo of its alternate lifestyle. All my annoyance is gone. If yours is too or was never there to begin with, take a ride with these four. There’s something here to learn, and, like me, you could do a lot worse. By the way, the extra disc and bonus materials are fabulous — the best I have ever seen offered for a film.

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