An archetypically American sub-genre, road movies sprung out of the country’s vastness; from the sense of hope and opportunity opened up by large cars, larger highways and an optimistic conception of the American Dream. Jump in a car in the UK and you can travel a few hundred miles, but in America (and American movies) the possibilities are endless. The road trip offers a way out for criminals on the run, a space away from home for teenagers to come-of-age, a path to a new life for a jilted lover or the promise of alternative sexual or economic prospects for individuals isolated in their home towns.
Road movies themselves are usually pessimistic, existential affairs; films about discovery, escape and self-definition that more often than not end in disappointment, death or disillusionment. They offer myriad possibilities to their characters, but also to filmmakers who harness both their innate propulsion to allow for looser, less plotty films, and also the natural, classically cinematic image of a car placed within a landscape. The road, in all of its literal and metaphorical beauty, is one of the enduring images of cinema from The Grapes of Wrath to Mad Max: Fury Road — and it is exciting that HOME is giving Mancunian film fans the chance to explore it in depth this summer.
The road, in all of its literal and metaphorical beauty, is one of the enduring images of cinema.
The rangey film season at HOME reminds us that road movies come in all shapes and sizes. Joseph Strick’s conveniently titled, 1947 Road Movie opens the season on Saturday 22nd July with a tale of hookers, truckers, cops, unions and conglomerates. HOME’s Artistic Director of Film, Jason Wood – who literally wrote the (BFI Screen Guide) book on road movies – will introduce a 35mm of Candy Mountain (Sat 5 August): a film that charts a trip from New York to Canada undertaken by an ambitious but untalented musician looking to lure a reclusive guitar maker from retirement.
Vanishing Point (Wed 16 August) is the kind of vintage seventies movie you might expect to in the season: a rebellious outlaw quest (in a Dodge Challenger) across the USA that posits a spiritual antidote to the country’s ills. Another seventies American classic, The Last Detail (Sun 23-Wed 26 July) sees director Hal Ashby swap the car for a series of trains for much of the runtime, as he fashions a coming-of-age yarn starring a young Jack Nicholson, set within the confines of the (in)justice system of the US Navy.
Classic family adventure The Wizard of OZ (Sun 30th July), shows that the road movie isn’t just for mature audiences, as Dorothy and friends take to a yellow one. HOME’s season also takes us away from the road movie’s traditional home, as a triple bill of Wim Wender’s films sees Alice in the Cities take us from America to Germany: the setting of The Wrong Move and Kings of the Road (all three Sun 13 August). Wender’s, who also made Paris, Texas – one of the quintessential tales of the American road – is synonymous with the genre, and this angst and alienation-ridden triple bill, entitled ‘A Voyage with Wim’ is absolutely the highlight of the season.
We also get sojourns into other far-flung locales with renowned auteurs such as Walter Salles, who takes us to South America as he explores the makings of Che Guevara in The Motorcycle Diaries (Sun 6-Wed 9 August). In Landscape in the Mist (Sat 19 August) Theo Angelopolis offers a contemporary Greek road movie as two young children go in search of their father. Meanwhile Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki brings a Siberian rock band Stateside, where they are sold a battered Cadillac by Jim Jarmusch, before heading out on the road in Leningrad Cowboys Go America (Wed 23 Aug).