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Road to Nowhere

Consider yourself at least a junior grade cineaste if you recognize the name Monte Hellman. A graduate of the Roger Corman school of film production, Hellman earned a cult following in Europe for two 1960s Westerns made in collaboration with Jack Nicholson, Ride in the Whirlwind and The Shooting. He did the same in the US in the early 1970s with Two Lane Blacktop, which may be the quintessential road movie.

But he never had anything close to a commercial success, and his last film was made more than 20 years ago. Which is not to say he hasn’t been busy: he shepherded Quentino Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs through production, and among the many films he was involved with, most of which were never made, was Buffalo 66, which he was originally supposed to direct.

That he has a new film, Road to Nowhere, is cause for celebration. By no means should you pass it by on the grounds that you’re not very familiar with his other films: Only the most rabid cultists will be able to link this to the rest of his oeuvre. And that’s a good thing, because there’s more than enough here to enjoy on its own, including some of the gorgeous photography you’ll ever see in such a low-budget production.

What is it about? Well, discovering that is part of the appeal. It’s a puzzle film about the making of a movie that does its best to keep the audience perpetually off-guard. (In interviews Hellman names the non-linear work of Alain Resnais and Michaelangelo Antonioni as inspirations; you may be reminded fo David Lynch’s Lost Highway and Mulholland Dr.) A successful young filmmaker (Tygh Runyan) wants to make a movie about a recent scandal in which a mysterious woman and a crooked politco died in an extortion scheme. He finds a movie actress (Shannyn Sossamon) who bears an uncanny resemblance to the dead woman. She may in fact even be the dead woman. Complicating the shoot is a blogger (Dominique Swain) investigating both the deaths and the filmmaker’s career.

Some viewers won’t care for the kind of viewing uncertainty in which a film opens with fictional credits of the characters within. Others will be happy to sit back and see where it takes them, a trip that includes the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, the West End of London, Lago di Garda in Northern Italy, and ancient sites in Rome. It’s not that patience is rewarded; patience here is its own reward.

Road to Nowhere will be shown this weekend at the Screening Room in Williamsville and the rechristened and redesigned Screens Cinema, formerly the HD Screening Room.

m. faust

Watch the trailer for Road to Nowhere

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