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The Driver and The Mechanic are two car freaks driving a 1955 Chevy throughout the southwestern U.S. looking for other cars to race. They are totally dedicated to The Car and converse with each other only when necessary. At a gas station, The Driver and The Mechanic, along with a girl who has ingratiated herself into their world, meet G.T.O., a middle-aged man who fabricates stories about his exploits. It is decided to have a race to Washington, D.C., where the winner will get the loser's car. Along the way, the race and the highway metaphorically depict the lives of these contestants as they struggle to their destination. Written by
Rick Gregory <email@example.com>
In "Easy Rider" two bikers are in search of American as they travel from coast to coast. The lead biker even calls himself Captain America. In "Two-Lane Blacktop" two car freaks, one a mechanic the other a driver, speed across the nation in search of what? Cars to race? Their trip turns into a cross-country race between their 55 Chevy and a GTO. How the driver of the GTO (played by Warren Oates) got the car depends on which of his stories the viewer believes. The revelation at the end of the film may possibly be the truth.
This film by existentialist director Monte Hellman who later helped produce Quentin Tarantino's seminal "Reservoir Dogs" is an important one. The dialog and acting are minimal, only one of the leads is a professional actor, Warren Oates. The others are two recording artists, James Taylor of "Fire and Rain" fame, and Dennis Wilson from The Beach Boys and a flower child Laurie Bird who tragically committed suicide in Art Garfunkel's apartment a few years later (ironically Garfunkel had helped Paul Simon sing the hit "I've gone to look for America"). The only other professional actor in the movie that this viewer recognized was Harry Dean Stanton who played the homosexual Oklahoma hitchhiker. This gives the film a more realistic feel and adds to the minimalism of the script and direction. The abrupt ending is a bit disconcerting but after a few viewings it makes more sense.
In "Easy Rider" the rock music was an integral part of the story. The soundtrack is one of the best ever. The music in "Two-Lane Blacktop" serves as mere background, kept so low that at times it's difficult to hear. There's a wild version of "Hit the Road Jack" by Jerry Lee Lewis who pumps the keyboard so fast that at times it sounds as if the keys are leaving the piano. The first rock song about racing, Chuck Berry's "Maybelline," is also heard at one point. It's hard for the listener to discern if Berry wrote the song about a woman or about a car. Otherwise the music corresponds with the simplicity of the rest of the flick.
The existential humor is easy to miss on the first viewing. GTO confesses to Mechanic and Driver that he is tired of picking up fantasies. Another part of the film has Driver asking Mechanic a question. Mechanic tells Driver to pull over and stop because it will take him a while to explain. When Driver stops it takes Mechanic only one sentence to give him his answer.
The viewer needs to watch "Two-Lane Blacktop" several times to get its full impact. The time is not wasted for the true believer.
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