By Noah Lopez
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Since the early 1930s, audiences have been fascinated by the open road. So much so that it has become an integral plot device, often used as a catalyst for maturation and bonding ("Thelma and Louise" "Easy Rider"), high powered action (1949's "Guncrazy" "The Road Warrior"), irreverent humor ("It Happened One Night") or as an excuse to showcase the strange oddities of rural America ("Stranger Than Paradise" "Something Wild" "Wild at Heart"). It's no coincidence that the greatest road movies present a strong blend of all these qualities. If you've enjoyed any of these movies, you have to appreciate the inventiveness of these two superior road movies:
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Godard's "Weekend," to many the end of his classic period, is a grueling cross country exorcism of many of the artist's demons. Godard's twisted vision centers around a married couple whose hatred of each other (and the world around them) knows no bounds. The film begins with a parallel glimpse of the two in the arms of their lovers as they talk incredulously of their desire to kill the other.
From there the film takes off, never really slowing down to examine the events that happen around the film's antagonists, but never launching into a high speed chase either. When the couple smashes into a neighbor's car, gets shot at, and speeds away to inaugurate their journey, Godard acts as though this is an everyday occurrence and quickly gets on with rest of his commentary.
Godard makes many of his points about the cruelty of man and the decay of society in the form of an amazingly long tracking shot that encompasses a bizarre traffic jam the couple runs into along their way. It quickly becomes obvious that one of
Godard's key symbols of what's destroying contemporary society is the automobile. The couple slowly navigates through accidents, burning automobiles, picnicking motorists, unexplained upside down cars, buses, etc. finally breaking free to run into yet another bloody accident.
"Weekend" never lets the viewer feel safe, instead bombarding him with continual conflict, confrontation, surreal imagery, violence, comedy and hatred. An excellent, tension filled road movie.
"Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia" (1974)
Directed by Sam Peckinpah, starring Warren Oates
Like Godard's "Weekend," "...Alfredo Garcia" comes at the tailend of Peckinpah's important streak. And as with that film, Peckinpah creates an atmospheric road movie that has more to say about its characters and their emotions than it does about their actual actions.
The simple plot of the film centers around bounty hunters hired to commit the title deed. Through a strange series of events, Warren Oates, a down on his luck bar piano player, stumbles upon the booty and travels to collect his reward. Along the way, Oates bonds with the bundled up, fly infested head, finding a morality that makes him hate the man who has put a price on an innocent man's head.
The film's cathartic ending won't displease fans of Peckinpah's action sequencing, but it's
in the film's quiet, introspective moments that the film really gathers its strength. This is a road movie that can leave you feeling haunted for days afterwards.
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