2016/10/29

Palatable: Two-Lane Blacktop

Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)
Directed by Monte Hellman
Written by Will Corry, Rudy Wurlitzer, Floyd Mutrux
Produced by Michael Laughlin, Gary Kurtz
Starring James Taylor, Dennis Wilson, Laurie Bird, Warren Oates
During the cultural flux of the '70s' dawn, the twisting tangents of two laconic gearheads -- a driver (Taylor) and mechanic (Wilson) of an ugly yet optimized 1955 custom Chevy -- who subsist on their winnings from drag races legitimate and otherwise converge and coincide awhile with those of a comely, capricious hitchhiker (Bird) and a mendacious, middle-aged braggart (Oates) seeking notice and competition as he oberrates in his cherry '70 G.T.O. If it isn't the deathless classic its cult audience avers, this filmic snapshot of its aimless age is as redolent as any, an immersive dream for motorheads. Stiff delivery from the young amateur leads nearly nullifies their considerable screen presence, so it's just as well that the characterization of their meandering souls convey more silently than explicitly, at least regarding matters that don't pertain to automotive prowess or maintenance. However, Oates is as smashing as ever, toothily charismatic while spouting braggadocio as the huffy mythomaniac who plies prevarication with a conviction concomitant of lust for attention and approbation, a perfect antipode to Bird's pretty drifter, who pines only for whoever won't treat her as a desideratum. Nothing planned within an immediate span comes to fruition for these ramblers of the open road who only reflect the irresolution of their zeitgeist, but no matter: Hellman's direction and editing are so gracefully unobtrusive that his viewers can almost forget they're watching a movie...or that this era of incomparable individualism and prosperity in which automobiles empowered the realization of freedom passed proud and strident decades ago.
Recommended for a double feature paired with Vanishing Point.

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