Skip to content

Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)

twolaneblacktop.jpg“Well, here we are on the road.”
“Yup, that’s where we are, all right.”

A big part of my cinephilia is the search for the new and unexpected. I’ll take the bold and original over the well-crafted but trite any day. I actually watched Two-Lane Blacktop for the second time last weekend with my brother and as with my first viewing, I’m not sure what to think of it, but it really stuck with me. It’s an existential road movie starring James Taylor and Dennis Wilson as two Zen gearheads who enter their 55′ Chevy in a cross-country, winner-take-all race with Warren Oates (who’s brilliant as a garrulous phoney) and his brand-new GTO. But the race never really gets going and all three men get side-tracked by a bed-and-car-hopping hitchhiker (Laurie Bird). Turns out it’s all (spoiler alert!) just an excuse to get these four characters on the road in search of America, themselves, and the meaning of life.

It’s incredibly ambitious and feels haphazard, but somehow also clear-eyed. I still haven’t managed to wrap my head around it, but I plan to be giving it a third and fourth viewing in the not-too-distant future. What I do know is that it’s pure cinema: sound and speed and loneliness and poetry played out on the American landscape.

But if you’re still not sold, here’s Richard Linklater’s list of things to love about Two Lane Blacktop. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go look through my Pauline Kael books to find her review.