Two-Lane Blacktop

Months before completion, this 1971 story of an existential cross-country drag race was hailed "an instant classic" by Rolling Stone, while Esquire prematurely declared it "movie of the year." The hype was unsustainable. When Two-Lane Blacktop finally opened that summer, audiences were indifferent and critics underwhelmed—although the Village Voice did praise Hellman's "feeling for the vast inhuman distances which form the face of America and the character of her people." Inhuman, to be sure. Redeemed largely by Warren Oates's galvanizing portrayal of the speed freak con artist who pits his 1970 Pontiac GTO against the souped-up 1955 Chevy driven by one zombie rock star (James Taylor) and serviced by another (Dennis Wilson), Two-Lane Blacktop is a movie of achingly eloquent landscapes and absurdly inert characters. (Preceded by a program of shorts by Stan Brakhage and company.) (NR) J. HOBERMAN

Fridays, 7:30 p.m. Starts: Aug. 14. Continues through Aug. 28, 2009

 
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