Monday, March 23, 2009

Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)

Directed by Monte Hellman. I first heard of this movie in the mid-90s, living in Seattle and frequenting the famous Scarecrow Video. The owner/manager of Scarecrow led a campaign to have this movie released for the first time on home video. He succeeded, and now a Criterion Collection edition DVD is the definitive version.

It's got the slow, almost stoned feel of a many films of the early-70s "new Hollywood" era but the casting is crazy. Pop music stars James Taylor and Dennis Wilson (Beach Boys) play nomadic drag racers avoiding their future, the personification of which is played by the great Warren Oates. They both sort of wish they had a girl -- possibly Laurie Bird -- who is hitching a ride with them. But they know they're not cut out to make the sacrifices necessary to a relationship, and she knows it too.

The men race cross-country, believing their opponents are each other. But the young men are trying to catch up to their future, while and the middle-aged man knows his past is the real prize -- and has long passed him by.

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