High Museum of Art: Films

More thoughts on Road Movies – Into the Wild and On the Road in Argentina by Linda Dubler
May 3, 2010, 9:56 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

 Some random thoughts on an episodic genre: 

Julie Marateck, the High’s Communications Coordinator, contributed this tribute to her favorite road movie: 

Into The Wild 

If you took a journey across America to find your “self,” but knew there were dire consequences, would you still do it?  This is the question that arises from Sean Penn’s film adaptation of the novel Into The Wild.  At the start of the film (or book), you know the story ends tragically, but you still go along for the ride anyway.  

The film is the true story of Emory University graduate Chris McCandless, who travels across America to make his way to the Alaskan wilderness.  Leaving money, family and society behind, McCandless, who wants to live a life of non-attachment, has to rely on the kindness of strangers to help him reach his end destination.  Along the way, the audience experiences big cities, small towns, beautiful nature and nurturing strangers through the eyes of the film’s 20-something protagonist.   

I love this film because it is a true story, and the truth is often more intimidating than fiction.  A part of me really identifies with McCandless – his open heart and romanticized visions of leaving society to find oneself.  There is sadness at the end of the movie, but the heart and soul of the film is so full of life.  He experiences more in a few short months than some do their entire lives.  

 At the end of the film, I felt brave enough to have taken this journey with Chris McCandless, because I never would be brave enough to have taken this wild journey in person.  Maybe in my next  life. 

Because road movies are by their nature episodic, the genre lends itself to openness and improvisation. Those qualities bring to mind a pair of Argentine filmmakers who excel at creating seemingly spontaneous films that beautifully capture the details of relationships while exploring the rhythm of life on the road. Here are three titles that are in American distribution and shouldn’t be hard to find: 

Rolling Family 

Pablo Trapero cast his grandmother, who had never acted, as the family matriarch who is invited to serve as matron of honor at a wedding, and decides that she’ll only go if her whole family accompanies her. So they pack up their motor home, mounted onto a 1956 Chevy Viking pick-up (the actual vehicle used 30 years earlier for Trapero family vacations) and head out from Buenos Aires to a small town near the Brazilian border.  The ride is long, hot, and slow, and it offers endless opportunities for bickering, embraces, and the inevitable mechanical breakdown. Think “Little Miss Sunshine” without the calculated jokes and vacuum sealed plot. If you need convincing, Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir called Rolling Family ” a profoundly rich and beautiful picture, in its unassuming way close to a masterpiece.  

Intimate  Stories 

Carlos Sorin’s original title is the apter”Minimal Stories,” so if you’re looking for kick-ass action or a good cry then move on. This trio of miniatures looks at the overlapping journeys of three characters — an old man searching for a lost dog, a traveling salesman romancing an attractive widow with a birthday cake for her son, and a young woman hoping to appear on a game show. Their destination is the provincial city of San Julian, and the roads they travel take them through the lonely expanses of Patagonia. The film is melancholy, unhurried, and sometimes funny, but always full of affection for its offbeat protagonists. 

Bombon el perro/aka The Dog 

Bombon the Dog

Sorin next film after Intimate Stories was this thoroughly charming, low-key comedy about a laid off gas station attendant who helps out a stranded motorist and is rewarded with the gift of a large, pedigreed dog named Bombon.  The beast is his entre into the arcane world of show dogs, and to encounters with a dog fancying banker, a passionate dog trainer, and a night club chanteuse. On the BBC website, reviewer Matthew Leyland praised the canine star’s performance — “Of course, it’s the headline canine who scoops first prize. He’s a rare breed of movie mutt: too much of a brute to be cute, but he’ll tickle your belly all the same. His deadpan comic timing puts half of Hollywood to shame.” 

 Linda Dubler

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