Two-Lane Blacktop

19 01 2009

 

I finally bought Two-Lane Blacktop; a cult classic starring James Taylor and Dennis Wilson.  I rented this movie in the middle of last year and watched it twice before bringing it back.  It’s a movie about cars.  I’m not a gearhead by any means.  The big draw for me is Dennis Wilson, of course.  But there is something about this movie that holds my attention despite having minimal dialogue.  I can’t put it into words, so I’ll let Richard Linklater do it for me.

Ten (sixteen, actually) Reasons I Love ‘Two-Lane Blacktop’ by Richard Linklater
Because…
1. … it’s the purest American road movie ever.
2. … it’s like a drive-in movie directed by a French new wave director
3. … the only thing that can get between a boy and his car obsession is a girl, and a Laurie Bird perfectly messes up the oneness between the Drive, the Mechanic and their car.
4. … Dennis Wilson gives the greatest performance ever…by a drummer
5. … James Taylor seems like a refugee from a Robert Bresson movie, and has the chiseled looks of Artaud from Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc
6. … there was once a god who walked the earth named Warren Oates
7. … there’s a continuing controversy over who is the actual lead in the movie. There are different camps. Some say it’s the ’55 Chevy, some say it’s the GTO. But I’m a Goat man, I have a GTO – ’68
8. … it has the most purely cinematic ending in film history
9. … it’s like a western. The guys are like old-time gunfighters, ready to outdraw the quickest gun in town. And they don’t talk about the old flames they’ve had, but rather old cars they’ve had.
10. … Warren Oates has a different cashmere sweater for every occasion. And of course, the wet bar in the trunk.
11. … unlike other films of the era, with the designer alienation of the drug culture and the war protesters, this movie is about the alienation of everybody else, like Robert Frank’s The Americans come alive.
12. … Warren Oates, as GTO, orders a hamburger and an Alka-Seltzer and says things like “Everything is going too fast and not fast enough.”
13. … it’s both the last film of the sixties – even tough it came out in ’71 – and also the first film of the seventies. You know, that great era of “How the hell did they ever get that film made at a studio?/Hollywood would never do that today” type of films.
14. … engines have never sounded better in a movie
15. … these two young men on their trip to nowhere don’t really know how to talk. The Driver doesn’t really converse when he’s behind the wheel, and the Mechanic doesn’t really talk when he’s working on the car. So this is primarily a visual, atmosphereic experience. To watch this movie correctly is to become absorbed into it.
16. … above all else, Two-Lane Blacktop goes all the way with its idea. And that’s a rare thing in this world: a completely honest movie.
The more I watch this movie, the more I love it.  In my opinion, it’s not the type of film you’d put on during the day just because you want to watch a movie.  I’d say it’s more the kind of film you’d put on real late at night, and as Linklater stated, you become absorbed into it.  Despite the fact that it stars two musicians, they don’t perform any songs at all.  James Taylor doesn’t decide to have a quiet inspirational moment under a tree, finger picking his guitar.  Nope.  Not like now days where if a singer takes on a movie role, they almost always have a part where they sing…even if it’s just in the shower.
There aren’t very many songs in the movie itself. So, there isn’t an official soundtrack to accompany it.
In 2003, a tribute soundtrack was compiled entitled You Can Never Go Fast Enough.  It features contributions from Sonic Youth, Leadbelly, Giant Sand, Mark Eitzel, Wilco, Calexico, Cat Power covering the Rolling Stones and a track by Will Oldham & Alan Licht called “Don’t Cry, Driver.”
“Don’t Cry, Driver” is a 9 minute song that features Will Oldham singing for 2 minutes and that after that, Alan Licht recites every single one of James Taylor’s lines from the movie.
It’s an odd but satisfying tribute album.  If you can find it, and you like the artists I mentioned, you should pick it up.  And if you’re one who truly appreciates films, I’d suggest you check this movie out.
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