Two-Lane Blacktop Reviews
"Shaft", "The French Connection",and "Dirty Harry" in the cinemas. The big surprise and the shocker of the Oscars was when "The French Connection" took the honors and the Oscars as the best movie of 1971 beating out the heavily favorite "Fiddler On The Roof" that year. But getting back to "Two-Lane Blacktop" this movie preceded the successful "Easy Rider" as the next to the last of the existential road pictures that were all over the place during the mid-1960's and all through the decade of the 1970's. However this cult classic was unavailable for years on video until 1999 surviving in the meantime on occasional television airings on nightly late shows and ending up being screened on college campuses and in second-run theaters and drive-ins. It built up a cult following(including Werner Herzog,who helped campaign for its video release through Universal MCA Home Video)and was eventually recognized by the Library of Congress National Film Registry and the Criterion Collection,and was credited as one of the inspirations for the real-life Cannonball Run. Not bad for a film about a couple of guys with no names,driving route 66. But in some aspects,this film made the theatrical debuts of two musicians...One was North Carolina native James Taylor(who in fact is a graduated of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was raise and born in Chapel Hill,North Carolina),and the other was "Beach Boy" singer Dennis Wilson. There isn't a whole hell of a lot of plot to "Two-Lane Blacktop" other than James Taylor and Dennis Wilson cruisin down the highway in a 1955 Chevy with a teen hitchhiker(actress Laurie Bird,who became involved with director Monte Hellman and later have a relationship with Art Garfunkel,before her untimely death in 1979)who are known solely as The Driver and The Mechanic. Their racing against Warren Oates,an older fellow with a 1970 Pontiac GTO and a propensity for self-aggrandizement. From a standpoint,the film is not only a marvel,but a timeless cult classic that still brings a strong sense of realism along with its spectacular editing that perfectly fits the era. The result is standard entertainment that is to be seen. Look for an early Harry Dean-Stanton in a hilarious scene as a hitchhiker who tries to help Oates "relax". Also the soundtrack to "Two-Lane Blacktop" is an outstanding result. Check out the seldom-heard original version(which is on the soundtrack album to the motion picture) of "Me and Bobby McGee" by Kris Kristofferson as well as seldom heard material from both James Taylor and Dennis Wilson. A Bonafide classic masterpiece
James Taylor is fantastic as the driver (although he says very little) and just mysteriously has this presence that works for the film.
It's a simple film a driver & mechanic travel the US dragging for money for gas & food and I guess it's more about the journey.
Although slow mid way it does draw you in & is an interesting film, you won't see the ending coming or may even like it....
The plot is so bare it almost really doesn't exist. We get two guys known solely as The Driver and The Mechanic who make a living aimlessly driving from town to town across the southwest in their '55 primer gray Chevy challenging anyone they can to drag races to make a little cash for food. One day they take on GTO, a driver of the eponymous 1970 car, and challenge him to a cross country race t Washington D.C. for pink slips...and that's pretty much it. Oh yeah, and there's a girl of course.
From a technical standpoint, the film is quite a marvel. I love the sparseness of it, it's got a strong sense of style that perfectly fits the era, and it's shot, framed, and edited very well. It's also quite faithful and authentic to the culture of the automobile.
The performances are fine, given the material, and I'm curious as to why musicians James Taylor and Dennis Wilson (Driver and Mechanic, respectively), didn't take on more acting gigs. Warren Oates is also good as GTO.
All in all, this isn't a film for everyone, but it's worth watching if you can tap into its specific groove, sit back, and relax.
This film found a whole area of unexplored territory for American cinematic style. It didn't didn't just dwell in this exploration, it pushed it to a more natural level to fit the style of the film. While it does that, it remains true to the pureness of it all, the road, itself, and it's attitude. I didn't expect to find as much meaning and brilliance as I did.
It's an interesting film, though nothing so enthralling that I would recommend watching late at night or anything, unless you know you'll stay up for it.
I will say that I have had it grow for me in leaps and bounds on a re-watch off the To-Watch Pile, upping it an entire star rating here.
Recommended. Check it out.