Critics Celebrate Two-Lane Blacktop, the 1971 Existential Road-Movie Masterpiece by Monte Hellman (RIP), Starring James Taylor & Dennis Wilson

1960s: Days of Rage


“The road movie has long since proven itself as one of the great American cultural forms, not least by capturing the imagination of other societies, no matter how distant or different. As New York Times critic A.O. Scott declares in the video above, ‘one of the finest road movies, and perhaps the purest of them all, is Monte Hellman’s Two-Lane Blacktop.’ In his original 1971 review of the film, a Roger Ebert described Hellman as ‘an American director whose work is much prized by the French, who have a knack for finding existential truths in movies we thought were Westerns.’ In some sense Two-Lane Blacktop is indeed a Western, but Hellman’s death earlier this week will prompt many to revisit the film and see that it’s also much more — as well as much less. Two-Lane Blacktop ostensibly tells the story of a cross-country race from New Mexico…

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