Busy week! Loads covered on this week’s podcast: 12 Strong, Den of Thieves, Phantom Thread, Call Me By Your Name, Mom and Dad, The Road Movie, The Final Year and Mary and the Witch’s Flower, plus a quick look at what’s new in home entertainment.
Russian documentarian Dmitrii Kalashnikov has gathered dashcam footage and assembled it into something fresh, wild and intriguing.
Dashcams are apparently ubiquitous across Russia and Kalashnikov pulls together a smattering of amazing clips to create an image that’s both universal and deeply Russian. If you worry that you’ll basically be viewing a barrage of YouTube clips, don’t.
This is a thoughtfully made, smartly paced movie—evidence of a filmmaker with style and authority. Kalashnikov creates a fascinating rhythm, expertly flanking longer pieces with thematic montages.
In the lengthier bits we’re privy to the conversation in the car, or maybe the sound of the radio. Both serve to heighten the bat-shit effect of what’s happening onscreen. And while the unbelievably appropriate talk-radio conversation being subtitles onscreen while road rage ensues in front of the windshield is inspired, it’s the often deadpan reactions of drivers that elevate the viewing.
Montages offer bursts of linked images, usually set to a jaunty Russian polka or some other weirdly whimsical piece. Sets of clips focused on natural disasters or animals or pedestrians punctuate the longer drives, allowing Kalashnikov to quicken the pace periodically and maintain an energetic cadence.
The film also has heart. This is not Faces of Death. There is carnage for sure, but don’t expect a grim bloodbath. Kalashnikov is more interested in the amazing, the weird, the insane—comets crashing, bears running in traffic, a guy with an ax.
For all its lunacy, The Road Movie is not a novelty or a trifle. It’s a rock-solid documentary, well-paced and informative. And it is nuts.