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RTN Review by Alain Hertay

RTN Review by Alain Hertay

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Published by Monte Hellman

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Published by: Monte Hellman on Jun 05, 2011
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06/05/2011

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Monte Hellman -"Road to Nowhere"
Outputs rooms Posted by Alain Hertay on 2011-04-07
 
Drop a monkey wrench in the machine
 
Cult director of the 70s, Monte Hellman returns to our screens with a new movie,
Road toNowhere,
his eleventh feature film and the first in twenty-one years.
 
P
resented at the 67thVenice Film Festival, this thriller, which takes place in the milieu of Hollywood movies,opens in French theaters April 13, 2011.
 
"All roads are the same: they lead nowhere. The important question to be asked by the traveler trying to find his way is this: does this road have a heart?" 
According to CastanedaThe arrival of the latest film by Monte Hellman,
Road to Nowhere,
has been greeted in France witha deferential coldness. However, Hellman was awaited in the country, the first to give himrecognition. Indeed the cult filmmaker had done nothing for twenty-one years. The prestige of the
 
author of 
The Shooting 
(1966) and
Two-Lane Blacktop 
(1971) has however only increased with the
 
years and his artistic silence. This prestige rests on some traits that define his style: a refinedstaging at the service of themes of wandering and moral anxiety that make it a precursor of modern American cinema.
 
If we judge
Road to Nowhere,
which presents a radically different approach fromwhat we know of Hellman's films, we can measure the disappointment of his fans. In this very sparefilm, the image made with video cameras has a technological and aesthetic approach surprisingfrom a filmmaker often considered "naturalistic." Finally, the story-puzzle that is told confirms MonteHellman's taste for genre films, in this case film noir.Shannyn Sossamon and Tygh RunyanTo tell this story in detail turns out to be a difficult exercise. In broad outline,
Road to Nowhere
is athriller in which a young filmmaker sees the movie he's shooting, inspired by a political scandal inwhich the two main protagonists have disappeared under mysterious circumstances, taken over bythe troubled climate of the story it depicts. Red herrings and multiple flashbacks lead to muchsliding between the film and fiction, causing numerous confusions about the identity of thecharacters and a good level of understanding of the narrative for the viewer.Based on these elements, we should not look at
Road to Nowhere
from the perspective that manysee as blunders: a work too theoretical and complex, crushed by the comparison with other filmswith similar themes such as
Mulholland Drive
(2001) David Lynch or 
The State of Things
(1982)Wim Wenders. We offer a more fruitful approach that seeks to reveal the internal reason which hasled Monte Hellman to make this film. The start will be a type of genre film, more specifically film noir. As Charles Tatum Jr. stated in his book on the director, Monte Hellman had an almost childishfascination with a rigorously codified popular cinema:
"I admit to almost uniquely preferring thecinema of yesterday. Watching old movies is far more rewarding than discovering what ishappening today. (...) I love (...) films of the thirties and forties, in general genre films- including,naturally, film noir "(Monte Hellman,
Yellow Now, 1988, p. 19). Twenty-two years later, MonteHellman reaffirmed the same thing during an interview he granted. This admiration is immediatelyapparent from his early films. Thus, during the period when he worked for Roger Corman, hedirected two movies which parody the films noir that he loves. His directorial debut,
Beast FromHaunted Cave
(1959) was distantly inspired by
Key Largo
(1948) John Huston. In 1965 he wrotethe script with Jack Nicholson for 
Flight to Fury,
a true exercise in style inspired by
Beat the Devil (Beat the Devil,
1954) Huston again. We find in this film the characters and situations emblematic of this kind of narrative: theft, betrayal, unscrupulous characters and already a plane crash like in
 
Road to Nowhere.
 Dominique SwainBut Monte Hellman doesn't stop with these superficial games of the standard film noir. Hisknowledge of the genre is also, in spirit, more profound and authentic. The novelist DashiellHammett expressed this spirit in the elliptical formula:
"Drop a monkey wrench in the machine." 
Ablind gesture shattered an initial situation into a multitude of scattered pieces. Films like
The Big Sleep ( 
1946) Howard Hawks or 
The Maltese Falcon
(1941) John Huston illustrate precisely thistheory. Even if they move away from film noir, strictly speaking, the following films by Hellman,
TheShooting 
and
Two Lane Blacktop,
extend this conception of the story by transposing it into thewestern and road movies. In both films, the "monkey wrench" of Hellman is a young woman who, byher intrusion into the story, shatters alliances between men, causing their behavior to deteriorateand lead to death. It also disrupts the flow of the narrative, breaking its linearity and driving it towardthe roads that lead nowhere.Tygh Runyan et Shannyn Sossamon

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