In a collection of essays titled Mythologies, the late critic and semiologist Roland Barthes draws a comparison between cars and gothic cathedrals. Like cathedrals, he reasons, cars are the supreme creation of an era, created with passion by unknown artisans and deified by the public as magical objects. Indeed, the automobile has become a mythological entity in the movies. Even in films not directly concerned with the car culture (Lucas’ American Graffiti), the auto has been a symbol of the passing age of innocence (Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons), the status symbol of teenage America (Carpenter’s excellent Christine) or the instrument of industrialization run horribly amok (Miller’s The Road Warrior). No consideration of cars in films should ignore the road film, and I’ve included the mother of road films as well.
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“This film offers a poetic and deliberately paced reflection of the sheer lowliness of the characters. The German countryside, photographed in gorgeous black and white by Robby Muller and Martin Schafer, only underscores the pervading atmosphere of isolation…”
“The film has a wonderful momentum, with a swift TV movie pacing and some memorably off-kilter scenes (the most notable involving two gay psychotics to whom Kowalski gives a lift)…”
“Duel presents a Twilight Zone-style hero, a middle class, middle age, white collar husband and father of two whose burdens in life follow him everywhere – even outside the city – and who must endure a rite of manhood before he can return to the urban jungle….”
“This is an incredibly dark look at erotic obsession and how closely the links between sex and death can be examined. Cronenberg, fascinated as he is by the violation of the human body (see The Fly), gives us some loving close-ups of bodies and faces scarred by auto wrecks…”