Monday, March 7, 2011

Two-Lane Blacktop...

is as much a film about obsession as it is about racing cars across America. It's about two people who rarely speak to others and who, even when talking amongst themselves, are more comfortable with the language of carburettors and tire grip than anything outsiders might recognise as the patios of casual conversation. Indeed the only real pleasure these two can find in words is in the smack talk they use to set up a race. Outside of this the pair use language in a strictly functional way and are embarrassed when it's used to describe feelings. GTO is quickly shut down when he opens up about his past and the most heartfelt words the Driver offers the Girl are, "You can't do it" or perhaps, "We're going to Ohio". This is not merely the behaviour of enthusiasts, it's that of obsessed individuals for whom the world outside of their narrow area of expertise is a distant difficult space.

This portrait of the main characters is an essential part of why the last sequence works as well as it does. In many ways it's as much of a retreat as the ending of The Wrestler. Except that instead of being underpinned by a sense of despair; "Fuck that shit, this is all I'm good at", it comes out of a sense of comfort; "Fuck that shit, this is what it is all about". Although it's telling (and somewhat frightening) that, regardless of outlook, they're both totally alone in their final shots.

*I was so proud of this reading that googled "Two-Lane Blacktop" and obsession just to see how common it was and whadda you know; everyone reads it in pretty much these exact terms.