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The Appeal of The Road Movie

"It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes; it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses" (Elwood Blues)

"Hit it!" (Jake Blues)

That legendary quote from ‘The Blues Brothers’ (1980) introduced the viewer to arguably one of the funniest and most notorious car chases in cinema history and exemplified the road movie as a metaphor for the desire for freedom. Freedom from oppression, freedom from authority and the freedom of self-expression. The comically manic, self-destructive joyride of ‘Goodbye Pork Pie’ (1981) saw the protagonist taking a thousand mile trip across New Zealand, in a progressively disintegrating mini, just to reconnect with his girlfriend, whilst David Lynch’s gentle perambulation that was ‘The Straight Story’ (1999) was based on the true story of Alvin Straight’s 240 mile trip on a lawnmower across Iowa and into Wisconsin to see his estranged brother. In more recent years we’ve had the eccentric British film ‘Driving Lessons’ (2006), the Bonny and Clyde-esque ‘God Bless America’ (2012), Inmtiaz Ali’s loosely scripted and superb ‘Highway’ (2014) and the somewhat off-kilter ‘The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun’ (2015)…to list but a few examples. What connects all these films is that each is ultimately a life-affirming experience, even if the journey ends in disaster. It is the process of self-discovery, but in these modern times of ultra high-tech surveillance and ever encroaching self-driving vehicles, will we lose that chance to push the peddle-to-the-metal and engage with our thirst for a fleeting moment of automotive freedom?

  • I'd be really curious to know how the road trip movie fits in different cultures' cinema - I've assumed (perhaps incorrectly) that it was a American connection. – Emily Esten 2 months ago
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