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  • Gareth Crook

Vanishing Point (1971) - 8/10

Vanishing Point seemed like a good place to go after watching Two-Lane Blacktop. I was hankering for more open road and this has it in spades. In fact I think pretty much every shot has a road in it. This suits Kowalski (Barry Newman). He’s got a cool job delivering cars across the country. Not just any cars though. Fast ones. Just as well, Kowalski is in a rush. With a system full of speed and a heavy foot, he’s on a mission to get where he’s going. It’s a good job he’s not the only focal point. We’d been done in a flash and left with a headache. To sooth us we’ve got Super Soul (Cleavon Little), a blind DJ banging out the tunes that drive this film in every sense. That’s really all there is to it truthfully. It’s a bit style over substance, but when you’ve got such style, why not lean into it. The camerawork is loose and exciting, capturing the American interior beautifully, through a roar of engines, tyre squeals and kicked up dust. Kowalski has speed in his blood, literally and figuratively. With a checkered past of racing cars, he does not like to lose, be it to other hot rods on the road or the cops. Especially cops. As a former cop he’s seen the corruption and cares little for their bent authority. Super Soul isn’t a fan of the cops either. Tuning into the cops frequency, he takes the side of Kowalski as the cat and mouse unfolds across the desert, feeding our ‘road runner’ info over the airwaves. Despite the simplicity, it’s the dynamic between Super Soul and Kowalski that makes this tick, even though they’ve never met. It’s the culture clash story so familiar with films like this. The buttoned down conservatism with its racist, sexist, ideals against the freedom valuing liberals and their wild abandon. It’s far from perfect, but it’s undeniably fun to watch, with a cast of lively characters, from the Prospector (Dean Jagger), Jesus freaks, Charlotte Rampling standing out as the English Rose in a sea of Americans (if you watch the UK release) and a lovely gay couple who try to nick Kowalski’s supercharged Dodge Challenger. I don’t know what Nevada looks like these days, but back in the early 70s it’s beautifully desolate and makes for a wonderfully cinematic spectacle. Maybe it’s the music, maybe the cars, maybe Kowalski’s big sideburns, but I love Vanishing Point. It feels like the perfect snapshot of this era and this kinda film.



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