From the visionary rebellion of Easy Rider to the reinvention of home in The Straight Story, the road movie has emerged as a significant film genre since the late 1960s, able to cut across a wide variety of film styles and contexts. Yet, within the variety, a certain generic core remains constant: the journey as cultural critique, as exploration beyond society and within oneself.
This book traces the generic evolution of the road movie with respect to its diverse presentations, emphasizing it as an "independent genre" that attempts to incorporate marginality and subversion on many levels. David Laderman begins by identifying the road movie's defining features and by establishing the literary, classical Hollywood, and 1950s highway culture antecedents that formatively influenced it. He then traces the historical and aesthetic evolution of the road movie decade by decade through detailed and lively discussions of key films. Laderman concludes with a look at the European road movie, from the late 1950s auteurs through Godard and Wenders, and at compelling feminist road movies of the 1980s and 1990s.
In 1934, audiences swooned when reporter Clark Gable and heiress Claudette Colbert bickered and then fell in love on a cross-country bus trip in It Happened One Night, an early American road trip movie. America's vast open spaces, colorful and varied locations, multicultural population, and love for cars, mobility, and speed make the road movie a peculiarly (though not exclusively) American fixture. This book is an academic study of American road movies as a "rebellion against conservative social norms" with "an embrace of the journey as a means of cultural critique." The emphasis here is on "outlaw" road movies. Laderman (film, Coll. of San Mateo) discusses literary sources and visions (On the Road), gay road movies (My Own Private Idaho), Native American films (Smoke Signals), and African American (Get on the Bus) and feminist road journeys. He dismisses most comedies, saying they fail to "incorporate any visionary rebellion." Indeed, the author's tone is humorless throughout. His complaint about "heavy-handed" irony in Raising Arizona, for instance, seems to be based on the fact that the irrepressible Coen brothers failed to follow his vision of what a road movie should be. There are some provocative ideas here, but Laderman's rigid approach causes the book to run out of gas. An optional purchase for large American film collections. Stephen Rees, Levittown Regional Lib., PA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.