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Monte Hellman USA, 1971
Everyone involved in this existential masterpiece steps up, but the revelation is Oates’s heartbreaking blend of bluster, threat, humility, zaniness, insecurity, and, improbably, latent decency—signature qualities of this great film actor, who at least until recently has been under-appreciated. It goes almost without saying that the race is never finished. The movie’s iconic fade-out is one of the coolest and most haunting in film.
January 25, 2017
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There are times when Taylor shifts from laconic to almost chillingly engaged, somewhere on the line between confident and sociopathic. Maybe that’s the trick in casting a popular musician in a movie: There’s a presence to Taylor that’s more self-assured than an actor with insecurities, and more than once, I’ve heard him described as a “zombie,” or something synonymous for this performance. But those eyes of his are a road to oblivion in and of themselves.
May 28, 2015
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What makes a movie star is the inability to subordinate oneself to a character—the charismatic force of personality that renders the star more fascinating than any scripted role… Taylor and Wilson exert a negative charisma: their presence is both powerful and blank, deeply expressive in its neutrality. They offer one of the few original post-sixties reconfigurations of the movie star. Their manner is a perfect match for the story, and for the mythic, symbolic landscape in which it’s set.
May 21, 2014
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The characters’ aimless, gear-head addictions define the joyless but dutiful—almost Catholic—tone throughout. In one sense, the movie is a series of interruptions along what should be a straight trajectory, as though Hellman were slyly recreating the jump cuts of Godard and Cassavetes without committing actual film splices.
January 06, 2013
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None of the characters have proper names, and Warren Oates’ GTO creates a new history for himself with every conversation he enters into… These are narrative reflections of the wide, empty spaces that characterize Hellman’s mise-en-scene, and they combine to create a memorably eerie portrait of American ambition and folly.
October 07, 2011
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You’re either in this picture or you’re out of it – which may help explain why it did the worst opening week on record at Melbourne’s Albany Theatre. Performances apart, Hellman’s film is so unmannered, so cool, so… existential that the cars are featured in the main cast… Two years earlier Easy Rider (1969) established the road movie as a commercial genre. Two-Lane Blacktop raised it to a transcendental art form.
January 01, 1997
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