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Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) - Blu-ray Review

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Two Lane Blacktop - Blu-ray Review

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5 stars

Quite simply, Two-Lane Blacktop is the purest road movie to ever exist. Revisiting Monte Hellman’s classic is not unlike listening to remastered Jimi Hendrix on 180 gram vinyl; a mood-altering earnest trip through the countercultural consciousness complete with a couple of side changes and a clarity of vision second to none.  Say that three times fast. There are no right conditions in which one need be in to become swept away by Hellman’s beautifully filmed two car race across the country.  Pressing play on the remote is enough. Pretty soon you’ll be transfixed by its meditation on human momentum and its two main stars: a ’55 Chevy and a GTO.

Two-Lane Blacktop is the quintessential and probably most perfect road movie that exists in the wake of Easy Rider.  Truer in vision and scope, the film’s American oddness – it features lead performances from James Taylor and the late Dennis Wilson (of The Beach Boys) – is also its greatest asset.  Hellman, who got his start working with Roger Corman, encased the new freedom that era of filmmaking was experimenting with in films like Five Easy Pieces and Drive with a sort of trancelike mojo that says exactly what the movement was about in a single line of dialogue: Everything is going too fast and not fast enough.

The real engine behind Two-Lane Blacktop is Warren Oates.  It’s a smartly subdued performance that has as many weird nuances as it does whip-cracking lines and no one can deny that Oates belongs behind the wheel of GTO.  Best known for his performance in The Wild Bunch and Race with the Devil, Oates, throughout much of Two-Lane Blacktop, is absolutely absorbing.  He’s certainly no stranger to this type of cult filmmaking or role but manages to place enough new-aged spin on it to make it seem fresh and two-dimensional.  Certainly, his crackling performance is the main thrust of the picture...in spite of all the other car engines firing on the screen.

We can’t leave the heart of the picture up to the two young men in the ’55 Chevy – the driver (Taylor) and the mechanic (Wilson) - as they simply don’t know how to communicate or relate to anything that isn’t on four wheels.  And the hitchhiker – the girl (Laurie Bird) – who, let’s face it, picks them up is just a moment’s notice away from jumping ship toward the next best adventure.  Their emptiness is the modern soul and shimmy of the picture.

This studio backed production highlighted a side of the nation that goes by unnoticed today.  Unfortunately, all these fringe (and slightly tweaked out) studio productions would effectively be silenced by the strength of Coppola’s The Godfather (as it ushered in a whole new wave of cinema).  Two-Lane Blacktop, however, is set apart from the rest of the Easy Rider wannabes by its deliberate pace and its dialogue that rings incredibly true to reality.

Hellman and cinematographer Jack Deerson capture a side of America that is slightly dazed and confused and absolutely beautiful in Two-Lane Blacktop.  Make this trip with a friend.

{2jtab: Film Details}

Two Lane Blacktop - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: R.
Runtime: 102 mins.
Director
: Monte Hellman
Writer
: Rudy Wurlitzer, Will Corry
Cast: James Taylor; Warren Oates; Laurie Bird; Dennis Wilson; Harry Dean Stanton
Genre: Drama
Tagline:
You can never go fast enough...
Memorable Movie Quote: "Performance and image, that's what it's all about."
Distributor:
Universal Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
July 7, 1971
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
January 8, 2013

Synopsis: Story of two men drag racing across the USA in a primer grey 55 chevy. Wilson is the mechanic, James Taylor is the driver.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

Two Lane Blacktop - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
5 Stars

5 Stars



Blu-ray Experience
5 Stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - January 8, 2013
Screen Formats: 2.35:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English: LPCM Mono
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

This AVC-MPEG4, 1080/24p high-definition transfer of Two-Lane Blacktop, preserving its original widescreen theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, is a worthy upgrade from its DVD counterpart.  The low-key look of the production is preserved by a grain-laced, gritty look that doesn’t feel digital.  While colors are bright, there appears to a bit too much DNR in some scenes and leaves the images too smooth.  This doesn’t happen often but it is a tad noticeable.  Fine detail reveals the various textures of the vehicles and beautiful American landscapes and makes for a wonderful robust high definition presentation. While dialogue is low in the mix, the original monaural soundtrack (presented as uncompressed PCM audio) or a new DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is a rich wit unexpected texture.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • There are two rich commentaries which really makes this release one to own.  One features Hellman and filmmaker Allison Anders.  The two have a conversation about Hellman's film and all the details he remembers from the many aspects of its making.  The other features author David Meyer interviewing screenwriter Rudy Wurlitzer and discuss the themes and philosophical issues the film brings up.

Special Features:

Criterion ports over every single supplemental item from the 2007 DVD release except for paperback reprint of Rudy Wurlitzer's screenplay.  Instead, the Blu-ray features a 36-page booklet with an insightful essay by critic Kent Jones, a reprint of a 1970 Rolling Stone article on the film's shoot by Michael Goodwin, musings of the film by Tom Waits, and director Richard Linklater's "Ten (Sixteen, Actually) Reasons I LoveTwo-Lane Blacktop."  A 42-minute documentary - in which Hellman and some of his Cal Arts students and his daughter go on a road trip to revisit the locations and other important sites from the film's production – kicks off the supplemental material with great energy.  This is followed by a 38-minute filmed reunion of Hellman and star James Taylor as they discuss the film.  A filmed a half-hour conversation between Hellman and Kris Kristofferson (who contributes “Me & Bobby McGee” to the soundtrack) is included, as well.  The film's preparation and production is discussed in “Sure Did Talk To You”.  Screen tests and audition tapes are included as well as a gallery of 60 behind-the-scenes production photos.

  • On The Road Again (42 min)
  • Make It Three Yards (38 min)
  • Somewhere Near Salinas (28 min)
  • Sure Did Talk To You (24 min)
  • Those Satisfactions Are Permanent (26 min)
  • Color Me Gone Gallery
  • Performance & Image Gallery
  • Original Trailer

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