TWO LANE BLACKTOP
Directed by Monte Hellman; USA 1971 (103 mins) in English
Described by Richard Linklater as “the purest American road movie ever”, Monte Hellman’s greatest film is a tribute to another celebrated US highway, Route 66 - running East to West, where Robert Kramer’s featured Route One runs North to South.
Banking on Easy Rider’s success and Hollywood’s newly found appreciation of untested, young filmmakers, Hellman convinced Universal to finance his cross country drag race movie, with James Taylor in the lead role -his casting a result of the director being captivated by the folk singer’s face as displayed on a Sunset Boulevard billboard. In the script by novelist Rudy Wurlitzer, Taylor plays the young Driver of a seriously enhanced 1955 Chevrolet 150. Dennis Wilson is Mechanic, Laurie Bird the hitchhiker they pick up on the way. Sporting colorful sweaters, aboard a Pontiac, Warren Oates is the driver they challenge in a race from New Mexico to Washington DC. An ideal double bill with Route One/USA -tight to the point of abstraction as Kramer’s film borders the epic.
Two Lane Blacktop is available in DVD and Blu Ray in a beautiful edition by the Criterion Collection.