11 January 2013 | tigerfish50
Detour to Dullsville
As 'Road to Nowhere' begins, pre-production is underway on a movie project about a notorious murder case involving an absconded embezzler, faked accidents and substitute corpses. The director is seeking a lead actress to play the crime's femme fatale - and his search soon unearths an uncanny double of the villainous vamp, whose only previous credit is an 'exploitation' movie. Coincidentally her character is called Velma - which also happens to be the name of the duplicitous missing showgirl in Raymond Chandler's 'Farewell, My Lovely'. After two-thirds of the film is wasted on long shots of characters tying their shoelaces, watching nail polish dry and rehearsing inconsequential dialog, the actress embarks on a tepid love affair with the film's director, which results in some unexplained melodramatic discord and a violent conclusion.
Although film-within-a-film concepts have been used previously, as in Truffaut's 'Day For Night' and David Lynch's 'Inland Empire', a disciplined director armed with a coherent screenplay should be able to conjure fresh life from the old dog. Unfortunately 'Road To Nowhere' never provides any useful information about the original crime or those involved, nor does it ever clarify various intrigues amongst the film crew. Director Hellman justifies all the heavy-handed movie references and opaque mysteries by claiming he prefers surreal narratives - but his excuse is fraudulent. This isn't surrealism - it's just dull story-telling - or more accurately, no story-telling.