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Opening medium shot: Shannyn Sossamon is sitting on a bed with her back to the headboard.The camera begins to move s-l-o-w-l-y toward a closeup of her face against a backdrop of silence. 3 minutes elapse as we watch her left hand move toward her face. She is holding a hair dryer. She turns it on. It blows in her face. During the next 2-3 minutes we watch as she moves the hair dryer closer to her face. We hear the motor purr. As this soporific scene concludes it sets the stage for a 120+ minute film that defies description. We soon learn that the story is about the shooting of a movie. Mademoiselle Sossamon has been chosen for the lead in this 'movie within a movie' She tells the Director she is 'not an actress' but he wants her anyway. I don't blame him..she's gorgeous and mysterious, perfect for a part that is the centerpiece of this convoluted, incomprehensible, maddening movie. As we watch various scenes of the director 'shooting his movie,' we become more confused regarding the storyline. When the director needs a retake, we watch him shoot the same scene over three times. More than likely the film editor went mad attempting to splice the scenes together to make a coherent story. Rather than give up, he spliced the scenes at random, collected his check and vanished. I commend him for having the courage to allow his name be listed in the credits. This movie was an endurance test. After the first 30 minutes, I took a bathroom break and noticed that at least half the audience had left, presumably in time to get their money back. I am aware there is an audience for this type of movie who enjoy obscure plots populated with ill defined characters. I'll acknowledge that Director Monte Hellman has style, but I'm unable to describe it. If money is not an object, go see this movie. But don't delay. I suspect the DVD is imminent.
This was among the most exciting news in recent years, a new Monte
Hellman film out of nowhere. In the pipeline for some time but released
without any hooplah or major headlines, this much was at least proper
for a man who made incognito some of the unique films of the American
underground: Ride in the Whirlwind, The Shooting, Two-Lane Blacktop,
But this one intrigued in a different way; gone but always remembered is the great Warren Oates, gone the mute drifters and brooding alienation of that time, but it would not be hackwork for hire, a re-shoot or mere work assignment, this one promised to be a dark personal vision like he hadn't been given the opportunity to direct in a long time.
So gone is Blacktop and Oates, this is a new thing for Hellman. But old in terms of cinema. It is the old trope of a film about a film, filtered through film noir and French New Wave. Lynch, pundits assert.
So one layer is a film about the makings of the film we are watching, referencing a life in movies and around movie sets that Hellman knows too well. Material deliberately chosen to be pulpy and reflecting movie plots that we know from noir is the backbone, a story of illicit love and suicide and behind it political intrigue and stolen money, presumably real events that our visionary filmmaker is fighting to turn into a movie.
Another layer is that story interspersed throughout as a film-within and gradually being shaped into the film being shot. But is it? Or is something more sinister afoot and only masquerading as our film? The idea: where does one dream end and the next begin, and is the space where one bleeds into the other reality or fiction.
The mechanisms that generate images are well sketched: desire, codified as our actress and referencing the femme fatale - another woman playing a role - and film noir dynamics, and the self perceiving itself separate, here very directly our filmmaker selectively framing a part of real life as a moving illusion.
The downside is not that it's slow and muddled as reported by some viewers. The downside is that since Hellman's day we've had several filmmakers probe and abstract deeper. We've had Lynch. This is not as complex or dangerous as believes to be. The machinery is never less than obvious. And occasionally as hamfisted as a camera being mistaken by police for a gun.
Hellman shoots this like it's going to be his crowning achievement. It's not, mostly because in this specific niche compete the most adventurous filmmakers of our time. This is not and has never been Hellman's natural space. He can't help but disappoint. But it's a new Hellman film and in a new direction and that's something to get excited for these days, right?
Monte Hellman remains one of America's greatest living filmmakers,
director of metaphysical classics like TWO-LANE BLACKTOP (1971),
arguably the ultimate American Road Movie, COCKFIGHTER (1974) and a
handful of others. Like the masterful Spanish filmmaker Victor Erice
(whose classic THE SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE Hellman gives a nod to in ROAD
TO NOWHERE), it's something of a crime that Hellman has directed as few
films as he has. So there's great reason to celebrate with the arrival
of ROAD TO NOWHERE, his first full feature in over 20 years.
Hellman being who he is, ROAD TO NOWHERE is as dense, poetic and mysterious as anything he's made since probably THE SHOOTING in 1968. In fact, his new film is likely his most challenging ever -- but that shouldn't put you off. On the surface, it's the story of a real-life murder-suicide connected to a Southern politician -- a mystery which gets inextricably entangled with the making of a film about the tragedy directed by a moody, obsessive filmmaker (Tygh Runyan, who also played the moody, obsessive Stanley Kubrick in Hellman's "Stanley's Girlfriend") and starring a beautiful, opaque actress (Shannyn Sossamon, in easily her strongest and most rewarding performance to date). Add to this an almost infinite rogue's gallery of characters including veteran actors Cliff De Young and John Diehl, a wry extended cameo from Italian pulp cinema icon Fabio Testi (from Hellman's CHINA 9, LIBERTY 37) -- and you have the strangest Hall of Mirrors this side of THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI.
If you struggle to make "sense" of the plot, you'll probably miss the point -- since one of the major themes that emerges in ROAD TO NOWHERE is the impossibility of ever making sense of anything. (Hence the title: the Road leads Nowhere, but that shouldn't stop you from taking the journey.) Hellman uses a similar narrative strategy as in his classic TWO-LANE BLACKTOP where about halfway through the story the actual race stops mattering. In ROAD TO NOWHERE, the question of who committed the murder (or whether there was a murder at all) slowly drifts away in a Sargasso Sea of false leads, flashbacks and unanswered questions. What's left is Hellman's portrait of monstrous artistic obsession and some of his most intense and erotically-charged filmmaking ever, played out in long, lingering scenes between Sossamon and Runyan. There's also a bit of M.C. Escher here, like walking up a staircase only to find yourself at the bottom of another staircase, and another ...
If you're looking for an easy ride, then you should probably look elsewhere. But if you want to wander off-road, into the mysterious and inexplicable Zone (to quote from Tarkovsky's STALKER) where nothing is as it seems -- then Monte Hellman's ROAD TO NOWHERE is for you.
As 'Road to Nowhere' begins, pre-production is underway on a movie
project about a notorious murder case involving an absconded embezzler,
faked accidents and substitute corpses. The director is seeking a lead
actress to play the crime's femme fatale - and his search soon unearths
an uncanny double of the villainous vamp, whose only previous credit is
an 'exploitation' movie. Coincidentally her character is called Velma -
which also happens to be the name of the duplicitous missing showgirl
in Raymond Chandler's 'Farewell, My Lovely'. After two-thirds of the
film is wasted on long shots of characters tying their shoelaces,
watching nail polish dry and rehearsing inconsequential dialog, the
actress embarks on a tepid love affair with the film's director, which
results in some unexplained melodramatic discord and a violent
Although film-within-a-film concepts have been used previously, as in Truffaut's 'Day For Night' and David Lynch's 'Inland Empire', a disciplined director armed with a coherent screenplay should be able to conjure fresh life from the old dog. Unfortunately 'Road To Nowhere' never provides any useful information about the original crime or those involved, nor does it ever clarify various intrigues amongst the film crew. Director Hellman justifies all the heavy-handed movie references and opaque mysteries by claiming he prefers surreal narratives - but his excuse is fraudulent. This isn't surrealism - it's just dull story-telling - or more accurately, no story-telling.
Ever see a movie that is full of art, depth and meaning, but you just
don't like it?
David Lynch movies strike me the same way. "Road to Nowhere" seems like a very Lynchian film. It carries a dark, brooding sense of imminent tragedy, characters are mysterious (some may say deliberately 2-dimensional), and the story disorients the viewer by leaping through different planes of existence. It's the kind of movie you're probably expected to view several times before you truly get it.
The story takes us to a small town where we piece together a crime based on small fragments. The whole time, a movie is being filmed about the crime, and that's the real plot. It's actually pretty clever of the director to hit us with 2 simultaneous stories unfolding in cryptic bits, and if I had more patience, I could have absorbed it all. But for the first hour I was just struggling to figure out what's going on, and the long, slow pacing seemed to mock my struggle. Do not watch this movie unless you're prepared to sit for nearly 2 hours like a deer in the headlights.
When the big picture finally materializes, it's almost too late. The abrupt ending may leave you feeling unsatisfied as it did me. But I guess that's where you're supposed to watch it again.
There was one part I'm very glad I saw: a scene where one character recites the poem "Sonnet XXV" by George Santayana. I'd never heard that poem before and immediately paused the movie to look it up.
Another scene, a short one of a plane crashing into a lake, struck me as beautiful. Make no mistake, even though I'm not a big fan of this movie, I enjoyed parts of it and would recommend it to fans of David Lynch ("Mulholland Drive"), Peter Greenaway ("Zed and two Naughts") or maybe--this is a stretch--Wim Wenders ("Paris, Texas"). It's also vaguely reminiscent of Jim Jarmusch ("Limits of Control") but it doesn't have Jarmusch's humorous moments, or any humor really. This is a very serious movie, made by serious people, intended for serious cinephiles. Do not watch this if you're in the mood for "Peewee's Big Adventure" or you'll be likely to crash your own airplane into a lake.
The title says it all. This movie goes nowhere. Unfortunately it
doesn't go nowhere fast. I should've seen the writing on the wall
considering the movie starts out LITERALLY watching paint dry.
From there it only slows down. And devolves to absolutely incredulous stupidity by the major players.
Want to switch the same scene three times? This is your movie.
Want to wonder how stupid people could possibly be? Yep, watch this.
Want to watch paint dry? A full minute of someone tying their shoes? 45 seconds cleaning the garbage out of their car? Film just being run to run film? GET.THIS.MOVIE.
Sound intolerable? Save yourself the 2 hours. Trust me. Or don't, but you were warned.
GIve me something really juicy to obsess over, and it's off to the
races. I've been a huge fan of Shannyn Sossamon for some time, but I'd
missed this movie until recently when it was aired on cable. While I
feel that Shannyn is the film's biggest asset, I'm also struck by how
her presence is not completely dominating any scene she's in with
others. It's clear that this was the right film, right actors, right
time and place, because this kind of full-cast chemistry doesn't come
along very often. I couldn't help feeling like a fly on the wall who
was witnessing the combustible moments, big or small, between these
In someone else's review here, they mentioned a killer opening shot. I agree and feel the same way about the closing shot as well. It could've gone on for another five minutes and I wouldn't have noticed. I'm looking forward to watching Road to Nowhere again so I can catch some of the little things I missed, because I'm sure that I did miss some.
I may have to revise and extend these comments if I get a chance to
watch this one again. It demands a second viewing and a pause button
while one jots down thoughts about what is going on. The movie appears
to be well thought out, but establishing that and getting in tune with
the thinking behind it takes several viewings. I don't feel like
watching it again right now.
It's a decent enough movie with a few oddities that probably mean something but are not obvious right away. For example, there is a scene where inordinate time is taken in which the actress ties her shoes. The meaning of this is apparent some time later when we see a little girl tying her shoes. This establishes a connection of identity. The initial hair drying scene probably connects too, but I'm not sure with what.
At any rate, the story is something like "The Stunt Man" in being about a movie being made and the director becoming involved with a crime indirectly by taking in a fugitive as a stunt man. In "Road to Nowhere", the director casts a woman in the lead who it seems may have been directly involved in a crime. She then seems to be playing herself, because the film being shot is about that very crime. Much of this film shows behind-the-scenes goings-on as the movie is being made.
Connecting the movie to the previous crime also is an insurance investigator who investigated that crime. He has become a consultant on the making of the film.
To meld reality and movie-making further, the violent climax of "Road to Nowhere" involves a new crime that involves those making the movie. In that way, it's "real".
Additionally, the director making the movie is not sure what the actual crime was that occurred and that he is making a film about. He makes changes as he goes along, not following a set script. Directors sometimes do this; Italian directors are famous for this. Because he's unsure, he considers various alternatives. The insurance investigator is unsure too.
I found the overall result reasonably engaging. Comprehending it more fully will take another watch.
"Monte Hellman's new movie is entitled Road to Nowhere. The title may
bring a bittersweet smile to longtime fans of the brilliant director.
Half sweet because it would be an apt moniker for most of his dark
journeys, while the bitter half comes from the knowledge that the title
could also describe a career that has resulted in great films, but with
one near-exception has never resulted in the wide acclaim that he
deserves. However, after seeing Road to Nowhere, Hellman fans will be
smiling unambiguously with pleasure that this latest work represents a
strong return to form for this unique filmmaker after over thirty years
wandering in the filmmaking wilderness
The movie tells the twisty neo-noir tale of a film crew shooting a true crime saga about a massive scam that ended in multiple deaths. Things get messy when director Mitchell Haven chooses an unknown actress to star in his movie. Mitchell becomes increasingly obsessed with his enigmatic leading lady who may have a secret connection to the actual crime. Mitchell's obsession and her dangerous game lead them both down a rabbit hole from which there is no escape. However, no synopsis can do justice to the Chinese box-like structure of Hellman's work. Careful viewing is required to decipher which events are "real" and what is the film-within-the-film, with even the credits being playfully deceptive. At age seventy-nine, Hellman has created a powerful and haunting work that can stand with his best films "
- Dylan Skolnick Long Island Pulse Magazine
While it would be nice to report that after a 20 year absence cult
director Monte Hellman has returned with some sort of existential
masterpiece on the nature of movie-making, complete with tragic death
and lost innocence as some of its themes, this torpid, nearly
incomprehensible muddle of a story about a young director making a
low-budget film merely leaves one confused and numb.
What might have been a worthy companion piece to Lynch's "Mulholland Drive," Dennis Hopper's "The Last Movie" or even the great Billy Wilder's "Sunset Blvd." crawls so far up its own convoluted pseudo-intellectual ass that making it through to the final credits becomes an endurance test.
Hellman commented recently that directing is 90 or 95% casting. He might want to focus a little more on the directing next time, and find a script that has a compelling story and characters one can actually care about. But this has never been his forte, of course.
A good deal of the blame goes to the editor, who allows scenes to meander a half a minute or more after they've effectively ended. The version I saw resembled a rough cut, not a finished film, complete with such snore-inducing moments as the main actress staring at a blow dryer for what seemed an eternity.
If Hellman's goal was to make a "personal" film that he alone can connect to and appreciate, then perhaps he has succeeded. But wouldn't it have been wonderful if this revered auteur could have -- for once -- created something that others could appreciate, too, perhaps even understand and enjoy... a picture with interesting characters and a story worth telling... something that might have been considered releasable by a small but respected distributor.... possibly returning Hellman to the filmmaking world of the 21st century as a viable director.
Alas, this mood experiment with digital photography, bland 1-dimensional characters, a 1970s Leonard Cohen inspired soundtrack and a cryptic, fragmented storyline may appeal to his very close inner circle of fans, but will likely leave the rest of us out in the cold, bewildered, confused, and wondering what all the accolades could have been about back in the 60s and 70s.
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