Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Road Movie

Among articles about the new and old Western from last week's New York Times magazine, I read Walter Salles (director of Diarios de motorcicleta and Central Station) take on road movies, "Notes for a Theory of the Road Movie" (accompanied by beautiful photos of wide-open spaces in Australia. Salles looks at what defines a road movie, taking past and current movies into consideration and the state of road movies in today's world.

While I haven't seen many of the movies (i.e. Detour, The Searchers), I understand the concepts behind the road move.

First and foremost, the protagonist

"suffer[s] from a need to redefine [himself]...[being] uncomfortable in [his] shoes."
"Because road movies need to trace the internal transformation of their characters, the films are not about what can be seen or verbalized but about what can be felt--about the invisible that complements the visible.

The road movie embodies the search for (new) identity and meaning. Or, to put it in Salles' words:

"...the road movie is limited only by one obligation: to accompany the transformations undergone by its main characters as they confront a new reality."

And this search is a necessary search, there is no other option other than going out there, on the road, overseas, on foot, and finding whatever it is that everyone is looking for. Because of this, the movies are "driven by a sense of immediacy."

Other traits of road movies:
  • improvisation
  • unpredictablity/working with what you have (Salles recounted how he'd work with scenes he happened upon while filming Diarios de motorcicleta)
Despite the feeling that there is nothing left in the world to explore, Salles is still confident in the power of road movies:

"Road movies...are about experiencing, above all. They are about the journey. They are about what can be learned from the other, from those who are different. In a world that increasingly challenges these ideals, the importance of road movies as a form of resistance can't be dismissed."

"[R]oad movies are necessary as ever to tell us who we are, where we come from and where we're heading."

On another note, Salles is also working on the adaption of On the Road, of which the cast has yet to be chosen. I am iffy about this, since it's one of my favorite books, and it can very easily turn out messy. Looking at his track record, I'm hopeful, but there's always that fear.

And to end on a better note, as Kerouac wrote in On the Road (they released his original manuscript and I want to read it, and check out the new exhibit at my very first volunteer location at the New York Public Library):

"What is that feeling when you're driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? It's the too huge world vaulting us, and it's goodbye. But we lean toward to the next crazy adventure beneath the skies."

No comments: