Hot Docs 2017 Review: The Road Movie

If you have spent any time lost in the YouTube wormhole, and we all have, you have probably seen some of the car accident footage that has been uploaded and archived by witnesses, usually from cheap cameras mounted at the front windshield of their cars. It might surprise you (or maybe not, if you are a Reddit regular) that the vast majority of these clips come from Eastern Europe, mainly Russia. Why?

Director Dimitrii Kalashnikov opined at the Q&A of the film that trust is not a big thing in Russian public life, and more than half of Russian drivers have dash mounted cameras to avoid situations of other drivers lying about what happened, and also rampant police corruption.

The tagline for The Road Movie, a sumptuously curated and exquisitely edited collection of dash camera footage is “Everything can happen on Russian Roads,” and for 67 white knuckle minutes, he more than makes the case that the Russian (and surrounding regions of Belarus, Serbia and Bosnia) sense of humour about such absurdity is a remarkable one. In spite of all the crazy ass driving, coldly observed in wide-angle static single takes (the nature of the medium) — high speed roll-overs, road rage fist fights, head on collisions and several very likely fatal situations — the Slavic sensibility towards all this adrenaline pumping madness, is that of casual nonchalance. Shock is one thing, this is something else entirely: a cultural touchstone.

We rarely see the passengers in the cars, but we hear their reactions, and we see other witnesses in other cars or pedestrians on the street. Take an incident where a five tonne dump-truck goes up on two wheels and capsizes over a city curb. All the while, a posh woman in a white parka sporting a designer purse takes notes of this incredibly vivid occurrence, but then casually crosses the intersection on the walk signal (two crossings) and goes on with her life.

In another clip, we hear two men question what is the cause of thunderous rumbling before we see a tank roll out from behind a building. The reaction is the equivalent to ‘you have got to be shitting me…is it ours?’ When the see the tank is in fact rolling up to the public carwash for a power-scrub, it is ‘fuck this country.’ Laid-back Russian pop music grooves in the background.

What sets The Road Movie from just a simple YouTube super-cut is that Kalashnikov has a sense of timing, and a bigger story than just action and mayhem (although there is plenty of both). He has a way of trimming the found footage to precisely calibrated lengths and in effect, to have a conversation with the audience.

Each ‘single take scenario’ has a set-up, an incident, and a resolution, but the way they are assembled (like a good album) set a rhythm that keeps the audience on their toes, seek and searching around the frame at the beginning, will this be a fist fight story or a spectacular car crash? Just when you have a handle on things, he will hit you with a rapid montage, a flurry of stuff, and transition to a wedding gone wrong, a mentally unstable person jumping on the hood of the car, or a litany of other ‘stranger than fiction moments.’ The often incongruous audio, be it song or conversation, sets its own comedic soundtrack.

While the assembly is not quite as ambitious or ambiguous as last year’s other YouTube found footage psychology experiment, Fraud, it is far more hella-entertaining. Where else would you have up-close video of the massive meteorite that rocked Chelyabinsk in 2013 bumping up against a man pulling a sledge hammer out of his trunk to get another driver to move his car, or an epic boreal forest fire filmed from the inside?

I learned the wide variety of situations Russians can mould the word “BITCH” to suit, and that in spite of all the violence that happens on the byways of Russian life, the people have a no-fuss way to recover and move on, that is utterly at odds with the West. But I would certainly think twice about renting a car and hitting the open road in the world’s largest country, at least not unless I was hoping to be in the sequel.

One final note, I am sure that the collective effect of The Road Movie is amplified by seeing it on the big screen, where one’s eyes (and head) have to more actively scan the screen. Oscilloscope Pictures has picked up the 67 minute film, and hopefully will put it out in limited release. If you are not of the faint of heart, you had best seek this one out at a festival or moviehouse for the maximum experience.

Blu-Ray Review: Two for the Road

Director: Stanley Donen
Screenplay: Frederic Raphael
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Albert Finney, Eleanor Bron, William Daniels
Producer: Stanley Donen
Country: UK
Running Time: 111 min
Year: 1967
BBFC Certificate: PG


With a library as strong as theirs, I have a trust in Eureka’s Masters of Cinema collection where I will happily watch pretty much any of the films they release. This trust has paid dividends and I’ve discovered numerous films over the years that I wouldn’t normally have given a second glance but turn out to be amazing. What pleases one might not please another though and every release can’t always blow me away. Stanley Dolan’s Two For the Road is one such a film. I hadn’t heard of it before, but with a decent cast, celebrated director and the Masters of Cinema seal of approval I gave it a shot. It wasn’t a total misfire, but the film wasn’t one of the revelations I hope I’ll find each time I put a disc from the prestigious label in my player.

Before I explain why the film wasn’t for me, let me tell you more about it. Two For the Road opens with an unhappily married couple, Mark (Albert Finney) and Joanna (Audrey Hepburn), travelling through Central Europe from England. As they ponder whether or not they should give up and get a divorce, we are taken back to three previous journeys in the same area they shared at different stages of their relationship. By jumping between the four stories, we see the ins and outs and the ups and downs of love and marriage.

Like the characters in the film, I had a rocky journey with this one. I really struggled with the first half, finding it very slow and unengaging. However, as the film moved on it grew on me and I got more engaged in the latter half. Also, when I went back to watch the film with the commentary, I found myself better appreciating the earlier portions of the film.

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Review: On the Road

Director: Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries, Dark Water)
Book: Jack Kerouac
Screenplay: Jose Rivera
Producers: Charles Gillibert, Nathanaël Karmitz, Rebecca Yeldham
Starring: Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Amy Adams, Tom Sturridge, Alice Braga, Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen, Steve Buscemi
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 124 min.

 

 

Original review can be found on my LetterBoxd page

 

After decades of stopping and starting, attempted productions that included talents such as Francis Ford Coppola and Marlon Brando, Jack Kerouac’s definitive Beat novel “On The Road” has finally been brought to the screen through the caring hands of director Walter Salles and writer Jose Rivera. The two seemed to be the perfect modern pair to take on this hefty challenge, selected for the task after their praised work together on the Che Guevera road picture The Motorcycle Diaries, which netted Rivera an Oscar nomination for his screenplay. Here they take on another journey of the body and soul, one that has seen countless others attempt and fail to figure out some way to make a film out of a novel long claimed unfilmable.

Proving the naysayers dead wrong, On The Road is a marvelous picture, as Salles is able to keep Keroauc’s spirit well in tact while translating the narrative-free odyssey into a film that is easy to digest, even for audiences unfamiliar with the source material. The young Sal Paradise is our lead, a representation of the author who is played here by Sam Riley, whose life is turned around when he meets the absorbing figure that is Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund). These two collide with one another in a way that will forever alter Paradise, and they eventually set out on the road while meeting lovers, kindred spirits and plenty of the Beat generations’ most notorious names.
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Mamo #293: Soderbergh – The Roadshow Edition

Don’t want to download our two-part Soderbergh discussion in Mamo #291 and #292? We’ve stitched them both together, with exactly 35 seconds of additional content, for the all-in-one extravaganza. See Soderbergh the way he was meant to be seen! Mamo Roadshow!

To download this episode, use this URL: http://rowthree.com/audio/mamo/mamo293.mp3

Mamo #249: Off The Road

Mamo road trip! We stop at Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for a catch-up show. We talk Catching Fire, Avengers, the next Batman, James Cameron, the 3-D 48fps Hobbit, and the future of all mankind (and movies).

To download this episode, use this URL: http://rowthree.com/audio/mamo/mamo249.mp3

Trailer: On The Road

A day or two late with this, but I was on the road myself (ba-ching!) Walter Salles’ adaptation of the famous and iconic Jack Kerouac beat-travelogue, “On The Road,” strangely keeps the name changes of all the characters; the book’s definitive republishing “The Original Scroll” loses all Dean Moriartys and Carlo Marxs and Sal Paradises and puts back in everyones real name.

Judging from the trailer and overall cast of the film it is certainly not anything like the faces and places that went through my brain upon reading the novel, but there is a hazy-dream quality that cinema imparts to these things that has in no way dampened my enthusiasm for the property. Not the showiest of trailers, but it gets the job done (in terms of fueling interest) better than, say, The Rum Diaries.

Sam “Control” Reilly, Garett “Tron” Hedlund star in the film, while Viggo Mortensen, Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, Terrence Howard, Steve Buscemi, Amy Adams, and Alice Braga all pop up over the course of Sal and Dean’s adventures.

On the Road with Andrew’s iPod Making Triumphant Return to the Cinecast. Probably.

I used to do a segment on the Cinecast entitled “on the road with Andrew’s iPod” in which I reviewed a different, usually shitty, movie each week that I had watched on my iPod while driving or bussing it to work. That segment was usually met with either a lot of head shaking or laughs or both. Since I’ve quit my job where I got the free digital copies, that segment has pretty much disappeared. But the good news is that segment might be coming back!

If the rumors are true, I’ll be able to pick up an iPhone this January with my Verizon account and with that comes the new feature of streaming movies from Netflix on their instant watch function and the brand new Netflix app released by Apple. The new app was announced in June and went live today! There’s a quick video at the previous link showing a little bit of how it looks, but if you haven’t seen The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo yet, maybe it best to avoid!

The new iTunes available app costs zero and will work for anyone with an iPod touch or an iPhone and a Netflix account with at least the $8.99 package or higher. I’m pretty stoked about this news. Not everyone is as excited about it as I am though…

 

Adaptation of Kerouac’s On the Road imminent?

Talks of adapting Jack Kerouac’s generation-defining novel On the Road for the big screen have been going on for decades – as far back even as the 1980 when Francis Ford Coppola purchased the film rights for $95,000. Even Gus Van Sant had his hands on the rights for years and years, but of course, his vision was never realized. It’s been known for a while now that Brazilian director Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries) is the latest on board to give the adaptation a shot and according to Production Weekly, filming is set to begin this summer.

They also give the very first word on casting, saying that Garrett Hedlund in talks to play the object of Kerouac’s strange fascination, Dean Moriarty. Who is Mr. Hedlund, you ask? Well, I wasn’t too sure myself, but after a quick check on IMDb, I recognized him as the tight end with the alcoholic father in Friday Night Lights, a part which I remember him being fairly good for an actor I had never seen on the screen before. Other movies he’s appeared in include Eragon, Troy, Four Brothers, and a leading role in the upcoming TRON Legacy. Could his role in On the Road be a career maker? That remains to be seen.

As for director Salles, as I wrote about back in October, he is attached to direct an adaptation of the Pennsylvania steel-town set novel, American Rust – something I am very excited to see, because 1) I’m rural Pennsylvanian born and bred 2) the novel was one of the best that I read all last year, having a very Cormac McCarthy and John Steinbeck vibe to it, and 3) as I was reading it, I had vivid visualizations of it as a film and it was glorious. No word on if Salles has dropped that project or just postponed his work on it.

Review: The Road

the-road-Header
Doomsday Movie Marathon

When it was announced that Australian director John Hillcoat would be taking up the challenge of bringing the bleak and difficult novel, The Road, to the screen it seemed liked the absolute perfect match of director and material. After all, his gritty and fly-coated outback western The Proposition had that right mix of apocalyptic and tender that is the essence of Cormac McCarthy’s prose (the crisp non-nonsense sentences are as sparsely worded as any book that I have read, yet finds power and poetry in its repetition). And are not many post-apocalypse survival movies similar in tone and execution to the modern anti-western? Make no mistake, this is a handsome, consistent and harrowing adaptation of the work, but it is not quite a filmic masterpiece because I fear the novel as it is, is not translatable from the written page to the screen. There is something about letting the immediacy of each small sentence in the book sink in slowly, whereas Hillcoat and co. have only 2 short hours with with to pain their gray portrait of a world in ruin. It is a faithful adaptation of the book to be sure, many of the “Day After Tomorrow” images in the gawd-awful trailer cut by the Weinstein Company are (thankfully) not in the in the film, and any scars or signs of its length (and likely troubled) production history are not evident on screen. Rest assured that The Road is the quiet and intimate drama, and very likely to be the bleakest multiplex movie of 2009 (should the distributor finally stop shuffling it back in the calender again and again) as it should be; yet, nevertheless between book and screenplay, something of the soul was lost in translation.

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