Road to Nowhere – Movie Review
By Ron Wilkinson Jun 10, 2011, 16:34 GMT
A young filmmaker gets wrapped up in a crime while shooting his new project on location. ...more
Cult icon Hellman has no pity on the faint of heart in this complex time-warped epic of a film noir.
Monte Hellman’s first feature film in 21 years is a much-heralded event. The tension has been building ever since his iconic cult legend “Two Lane Blacktop” and this film noir with David Lynch overtones is just what people wanted.
Dark, mysterious, seething, sensuous are the words that were running through the minds of those attending the recent screening of the film at the “To Hellman and Back” night at the Lincoln Center in New York.
Unfortunately, at the conclusion of this rambling mish-mash of murky mystery most of them were asking each other what they had just seen.
Make no mistake; this is a thoroughly enjoyable film. It starts out flashing on the stunning Velma Duran (Shannyn Sossamon) in one of Hellman’s favorite scenes. Nobody is better than he is at filming scenes in cars. He is able to work within that claustrophobic, restricted space to produce visions that look inside the person in the car. When he shoots inside a car, he shoots inside the person.
It does not hurt that Sossamon is beautiful. She is a beautiful brunet with that subtle blend of openness and danger that Lynch made famous in his films and especially in the “Twin Peaks” TV series. When you see her you do not know whether to propose to her or run from her.
Like the brunets in “Twin Peaks” Velma Duran is a doppelganger. She is two people in one. She is playing a character in a film based on a famous real estate swindle. Plus she may well have stolen the identity of the real Velma Duran who was killing fighting against Castro in Cuba.
Plus she is Laurel Graham, a reclusive ex-patriot living comfortably with no visible means of support. The film tells her story in a completely nonlinear manner, flashing back and forth in time and between several possible realities.
In this film within a film, director Mitch Haven (long time Hellman collaborator Tygh Runyan) plays Monte Hellman’s alter ego. Haven is completely dedicated to the film and he is especially dedicated to casting for the film. “Directing is 90% casting,” says Haven, and, what do you know, Hellman agrees.
As it turns out, Haven has cast the leading role of Velma Duran all too well. With his own conscience snapping at his heels, along with insurance investigator Bruno Brotherton (Waylon Payne) he has cast himself into the film as well. Too bad he will not find that out until too late.
Cliff De Young plays the dual roles of Cary Stewart and Rafe Tachen. Tachen is the man at the bottom of the swampy, dark and deadly real estate swindle that gave haircuts to some very dangerous men to the tune of $100 million. Stewart plays the role of Tachen in the film, another built in doppelganger of a character.
Tachen fell for Duran and the sloe-eyed, dark-hair devil next door took him to the cleaners. Stewart is smarter, playing opposite Laurel Graham, but there is nothing he can do to stop director Haven being sucked under the quicksand of his latest movie.
A big part of Hellman’s genius is being able to tell six or eight life stories using four characters. He is also able to pull the audience out of reality and into his dream by using a non-linear presentation.
There are no more than about three to five events shown in actual chronological order in this entire two to three hour film (the length depends on the cut you see). At times it is difficult or impossible to tell whether the scene is the actors acting out the film in the present or if it is a flashback of past events showing the real people.
The worst part of all this is that some of the key scenes appear to have been shot to intentionally make it hard for the viewer to follow the story. At times the film crosses over the line from visionary to self-indulgence. People will walk out of this movie: it is no fun to view random events that refuse to coalesce into a story.
The good news is that the cinematography (Josep Civit), soundtrack (Tom Russell) and acting is superb from start to finish. The film starts off with a brooding, guilt-drenched feeling that screams despair like the whine of the Beachcraft’s engine as Rafe Tachen pilots his plane into the ground.
As the plot unfolds the terrible truth is revealed to those who are lucky enough to figure it out.
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Directed by: Monte Hellman
Written by: Steven Gaydos
Starring: Shannyn Sossamon, Tygh Runyan and Cliff De Young
Release Date: June 10, 2011
MPAA: Rated R for some language and brief violence
Runtime: 122 minutes
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