Director/auteur Monte Hellman's breakout feature is a minimalist existential road movie starring singer James Taylor and Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson as a duo on a cross-country race (1971).
Screened as part of NZIFF 2007
Director Monte Hellman’s auteur status was cemented with the release of Two-Lane Blacktop, his break-out feature. Though this is ostensibly a road movie, Hellman transforms the trappings of the genre into a personal worldview. The titular road has no name, nor do the characters who traverse it, roaming the seemingly endless routes of backwater USA in their soupedup cars. Singer James Taylor is “The Driver”, Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson is “The Mechanic” and Laurie Bird is “The Girl”, a hitchhiker who joins them on their road to nowhere. Warren Oates is old timer “G.T.O.”, who challenges the trio to a cross-country race. Once established, the sparse narrative takes a back seat, as the film’s unique mood kicks into gear and the road itself becomes an existential metaphor.
“The greatest car movie ever! This minimalist masterpiece is one of the greatest American films to come out of the 1970s… tops much of what came from many of the more celebrated filmmakers of the decade, including any of the movies made by Martin Scorsese or Brian de Palma.” — Ron Wells, Film Threat