Road To Nowhere

Review by Othman 26 April 2011

Two-Lane Abyss

[Tribune] Sublime contemplation on the cinema by itself, the film by Monte Hellman is imbued with a passionate melancholy which shows an essential emotion: the movie cost him his life. Road To Nowhere has an inexplicable and convoluted plot that it would be futile to summarize except in these terms: one actress plays two roles, one in the film by a young filmmaker, Mitchell Haven (alter-ego and anagram of Monte Hellman), the other in an obscure case of embezzlement. This actress is Laurel Graham. She plays the role of Velma Duran. And these two roles are played by Shannyn Sossamon. You follow? The film and filmmaker are both in love with an actress, Mitchell Haven with Laurel Graham, and the camera - obviously - with Shannyn Sossamon. Here, the camera is also a camera (the Canon 5D Mark II), that revolutionizes contemporary cinema craft, resourceful and inexpensive. Monte Hellman made the weapon a simple attribute of staging it would be pointless to reveal here, under penalty of fanning the main metaphor of the film. Regarded as a fantasy, the work of Mitchell Haven is constantly underplayed while levels of reality / film / fantasy are indistinguishable. The narration is also quickly abandoned by the two filmmakers (the film and Monte Hellman) in favor of a cult devoted entirely to the actress who fully engulfs the rhythm

of the film. Where levels of development are linked to an abyss at the edge of legibility, there are long breaths in sequences shot on Shannyn Sossamon / Laurel Graham / Velma Duran which hypnotize at least as much as they pause the flow of drama.

Suffice to say that Road To Nowhere is a lost film, classic without being dated, modern without being contemporary, on a winding road, entirely launched in pursuit of a utopian chimera. Monte Hellman has received a special Golden Lion at the last Venice Film Festival, an amazing award (with the subtitle "contribution to world cinema") assigned to his most thoughtful film, also his most disenchanted, carried by a deaf bitterness. He who claimed in Venice to be "an anti-intellectual intellectual" was converted to an aesthetic cinema (the photography of Joseph Civit is gorgeous) where the end is meaningful only in relation to the whole film, an end here on a very infinitely slow and elegant zoom on the parted lips of Shannyn Sossamon. The latter is the subject of desire in the film, luminous and playful, unflappable between shots when she was Velma Duran, with an unprecedented grace as Laurel Graham. With a wild beauty, each of its scenes is a big shot in the heart fired by an angry 79 year old filmmaker, returning to the movies with infinite love.

ROAD TO NOWHERE Director : Monte Hellman Script : Steven Gaydos Produced by : Melissa Hellman, Monte Hellman, Steven Gaydos Photography : Josep M. Civit Editing : Céline Ameslon Music : Tom Russell Origin : United States Duration : 02h01min Release in France : 13 April 2011

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