Monday, September 15, 2008

Here in My Car

The 1971 movie Two-Lane Blacktop is James Taylor's only screen-acting performance, and it's not hard to see why: He's a poor actor. After many of his line readings, even those sitting at home watching the DVD will be tempted to call out, "Cut! Let's try that one again."

The role is well-crafted for him, though: the steely-eyed, taciturn driver of a 1955 Chevy, who only speaks if it's absolutely necessary. Mostly he just glares through the windshield, or halumphs around, stooped, lean, excessively tall, elbows slightly bent: At six-foot-three, he's built exactly like Shaggy (the detective, not the reggae singer). And when he does use it, though, that voice is something else, like burnished teak.

It doesn't really matter, because Two-Lane Blacktop is mostly about the American vistas. These low-budget movies, filming on the road, captured America better than any stdio output could. Would a set designer really notice the rack of empty glass bottles next to the Coke machine, or the cylinder of cheap sunglasses for sale in a truck stop? If you want to know what these United States looked like back in 1971, here's the movie for you.

Even in the cruddy, sensationalist trailer, you get a little sense of that:


Kinky Paprika said...

Far out.
How's Dennis Wilson's performance?

T. Nawrocki said...

He's slightly more animated than James Taylor, and he has great hair. Still, Dennis too never acted again, and for good reason.