Road To Nowhere

de Monte Hellman


It’s taken Monte Hellman more than twenty years to get back into the arena. And he’s done it with a movie that explores the possibilities of digital and the limits of fiction. In times of crisis, what could be better than Road to Nowhere, a complex, low-budget film that’s two movies in one. On the one hand, it’s Hellman’s film; on the other, a fictitious Mitchell Haven’s film, ready to recreate the story of a mysterious woman. Since Mulholland  Drive we hadn’t seen a film exercise as fascinating as this one: a game of superimposed realities, a sensual portrayal and the return of one of the great big screen directors.Here and there. Today and yesterdayThirty years have gone by since Two-Lane Blacktop (71), since its final image, with the burning celluloid. Three decades later, Monte Hellman opens his film with a shot of a laptop computer and a DVD where you can read, written with a felt-tip pen, “Road to Nowhere”. With just one image, Hellman takes the step from celluloid to digital, returns to directing after a twenty year absence and presents the duplicity of a film that’s two in one: it is Road to Nowhere, Monte Hellman’s film, and it is “Road to Nowhere” a movie directed by the fictitious Mitchell Haven.In this very cinephillic game, of a movie in another movie, there’s room for references to the director’s past, for a sense of humor that verges on eccentricity, for a mystery that’s worthy of noir, for a work on fiction that relates Road to Nowhere to Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch, 01) and for a taste for metaphysics, propped up over a final shot that recalls both Two-Lane Blacktop and Cockfighter (68). There is a lot of Hellman in Mitchell Haven’s character, a filmmaker who emphatically states that the three pillars he builds a movie on are “the casting, the casting and the casting”. The film itself proves Hellman/Haven right: in one of the final sequences, with the main character lying down in a hotel room, after the events have precipitated torrentially, Haven grabs the camera and films the movie crew. The border between fiction and reality is broken for good. The same rupture  that occurs at the end of Cockfighter, with the main character literally confronting himself; the same taste for duplicity; the same metaphysical undertone.Two-Lane Blacktop depicted a passion for the trade (cars, cinema), while at the same time subtly drawing the trajectory of characters on the fringes to achieve its objective (like Hellman himself, a sniper within the Hollywood industry, brought up in Roger Corman’s factory). In the middle, there was a woman, the object of desire of three men competing to win a car race. Road to Nowhere rests on similar ideas. From its very conception, as a low-budget movie (although its style is excellently cared for), defends a way of understanding cinema. Again, the central theme of the thriller is a woman: a character whose mystery Mitchell Haven wants to reveal in his film, an actress the director will fall madly in love with, maybe the shadow of Laurie Bird, the girl from Two-Lane Blacktop. Hellman achieves moments of absolute beauty in his filming of the silky faced woman, with an undertone loaded with intrigue. He allows himself to be carried away by long, unhurried shots, emulating the tempo of Tsai Ming-liang’s cinema –an intended tribute–. He’s made a return that takes place in two directions, because it is both an assertion of the current situation of his cinema and a glance back towards the past.VIOLETA KOVACSICS


Monte Hellman

New York, 1932. Studied theater and film. He started off under Roger Corman’s protection with Beast from Haunted Cave (59). He made two independent cult films, The Shooting (69) and Two-Lane Blacktop (71), and was the executive producer of Reservoir Dogs (92).

Technical information

Edition: 2011
Section: Seven Chances
Original language: English