Two-Lane Blacktops: The 1970s American Road Movie

Presented with Shivers Film Society


6:30PM - DEATH RACE 2000

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We celebrate an Americana idea of freedom and adventure with a selection of 1970s-era road movies — films that, in the post-Woodstock-cum-post-Vietnam period, society’s underdogs, anti-authoritarians, anti-establishmentarians, counterculturalists, and soul-searching wanderers could identify with — all within a uniquely American cultural context of cars, speed, and the open road!

The Old World seemed overcrowded to some, but Antonioni’s The Passenger starkly countered this idea by giving an enigmatic Euro road movie the vastness typically associated with America’s roads, deserts, and wide spaces that seem to go on forever. The open highways of America are inherently cinematic, and the idea that they can provide an unknowable adventure to somewhere, or somewhere else, is what is so alluring both to the characters within these stories and to the audiences taking these images in, whether in the context of reflective meditation or unbridled excitement. There is an idolization of the open road, of travelling, of getting away from one's roots to experience something entirely different, of simply moving. And there is also the commercial and dangerously capitalistic idolization of the cars themselves. These themes were energetically satirized in both low-budget pictures (the 1975 action-exploitation film Death Race 2000, which skewered American media culture two decades before Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers did) and, in less frenzied, more meditative fashion, slightly bigger studio-produced films (The Passenger, Vanishing Point). Other films are almost journeys of discoveries themselves (Two-Lane Blacktop and, again, Vanishing Point). Some films directly criticized the heavy value placed on cars, money, and status by American consumerist society in the post-1960s (The Driver, Race with the Devil, and Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry) while still offering fast-paced cult thrills. Other cult favourites utilized the road and fast cars for sheer over-the-top excitement and entertainment (The Gauntlet, one of Clint Eastwood's mid-1970s actioners), with the high-octane fun perhaps compensating for any perceived lack of actual depth.

Membership in The Cinematheque or Shivers Film Society will be accepted for this series.




Program notes by Vince D’Amato

Select screenings introduced by Ernest Mathijs and Vince D’Amato

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Ernest Mathijs is a Professor of Film Studies at UBC whose areas of specialization include cult cinema and horror cinema. He is the author of The Cinema of David Cronenberg: From Baron of Blood to Cultural Hero and the co-author of 100 Cult Films and Cult Cinema.

Vince D’Amato runs Shivers Film Society, a Vancouver-based non-profit film society celebrating and presenting Canadian, Italian, and American cult and genre cinema.

Click for film notes + showtimes

Recent Showings

LIVE TWEET-A-THON! This completely zany sci-fi stars David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone as contestants in a road-race who win points for every pedestrian they run over!
LIVE TWEET-A-THON! Warren Oates, Peter Fonda, and Loretta Swit star in this race-to-the-death thriller about a murderous group of Satan worshippers terrorizing an RV.
35mm PRINT! Antonioni’s thoughtful “what-if” film stars Jack Nicholson as a political journalist working in Africa who swaps identities with a dead man.
A year before The Warriors, director Walter Hill got fast and furious in this high-velocity art-house/action opus about a professional getaway driver.
ALL AGES! 35mm PRINT! Two daredevils, played by Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, compete in an automobile race in Pink Panther director Blake Edward's Technicolor slapstick comedy.
Cult director Monte Hellman's claim to fame was this '70s classic starring musicians James Taylor and Dennis Wilson as street racers making their way across America.
Barry Newman is car delivery driver hired to take a 1970 Dodge Challenger across America in this enigmatic tale of anti-establishment and anti-authoritarianism.
Peter Fonda and Susan George are the titular couple-on-the-run in one of the wildest B-movie takes on American capitalist culture.
Clint Eastwood directed and starred in this totally absurd but extremely entertaining (and un-PC) chase story about a not-bright alcoholic cop who drives a hooker from Vegas to Phoenix.