12 January 2004 | LewisJForce
"Where do I go from here?"
Michael Cimino's first film is an arresting fusion of early 70's road movie, 'Buddy' picture and 'planning a heist' action-thriller. That it manages to incorporate these elements into a poetic study of male friendship and the unquenchable restlessness at the heart of the great American pioneer/drifter mentality makes it a remarkable piece of work.
Cimino avoids the 'arty' distance of Terence Malick's 'Badlands' or the po-faced existentialism of Monte Hellman's 'Two Lane Black-top', but entertains the same thematic concerns within the framework of an accessible genre piece. From it's opening vista of a deserted wheat field, accompanied by the haunting strains of a single acoustic guitar, the film resonates with loneliness and loss. "Tell me where, Where does a fool go", sings Paul Williams, "when there's no-one left to listen, to a story without meaning, that no-body wants to hear?"
It is also funny and tender in it's observation of male camaraderie. Eastwood has never been more effective and affecting on-screen than in his interplay here with Jeff Bridges. We get a real sense of his character's connection to Bridges which makes the 'Midnight Cowboy'-ish ending genuinely moving.
Like all the great 70's movies, it has some wonderfully memorable scenes and dialogue: Dub Taylor ranting about the imminent collapse of the American economy at a nocturnal gas station; Bill Mckinney as a crazed speed-freak with a trunk full of white rabbits; Bridges encountering a hammer-wielding female motorcyclist, etc, etc.
Throw in some breath-taking scenic photography of Montana by Frank Stanley (prefiguring the use and role of landscape in relation to character later explored by Cimino in 'The Deer Hunter') and some beautifully understated character work in the smaller roles, and you have a fondly remembered minor classic ripe for some serious re-appraisal.