The Road Movie (2018)


Russians, it seems, can’t drive for toffee. And not just when their roads are blanketed with snow and ice, which they often are, of course. No, it’ll be a beautiful sunny day, not a cloud in the sky, and some Eastern bloc-head will come barreling down on you on the wrong side of the divided highway.
     C-R-RRRUNCH! Ouch. That smarts.
     Fortunately for those rubberneckers among us, most Russian vehicles are outfitted with dashboard cameras (they’re a litigiously-minded people, I guess?) which record much of the mayhem on their roads. And we get to witness some 70 minutes worth of it in Dmitrii Kalashnikov’s The Road Movie, a spectacular “found footage” compilation of head-ons, side-swipes, t-bones, fishtails, jackknives, and roll-overs, as well as threatening forest fires, floods, psycho pedestrians, petty thefts and punch-ups, even comets—and the odd parachutist—falling to earth, all from the comfort of our living rooms… unless you paid actual money to view this YouTube-like experience in an honest-to-goodness movie theater, of course.
     Obviously some people, and occasional critters, are hurt during all of this vehicular insanity—we hear at least one passenger claiming to have broken her leg following a crash—but thankfully the fixed dash-cams don’t show us anything much beyond the fiery explosions and the mangled metal and the occasional oddities out there on route shest’desyat shest. More fun, for me that is, are our stoic, in-car narrators who provide a running commentary on the gonzo goings-on beyond their windshields with an unusually calm sense of detachment, peppered with unsavory subtitles. Like when one of them takes a sharp curve a little too fast and winds up in a river (“we’re sailing!”), or a low-flying mallard collides with the windshield (“can we see it, Daddy?”), or a couple of prostitutes proposition our driving companions along the way (“3000? Maybe we’ll stop on the way back”).
     I’ve been driving for nearly forty years and haven’t seen anything approaching the kinds of calamities that befall our haplessly droll comrades, so in that regard the film is a definite eye-opener. Some might question whether The Road Movie is an actual film—probably the same people who like to argue about Andy Warhol’s Empire, say—but it makes for a pretty effective public service announcement if nothing else.
     I, for one, was a lot more vigilant about double-checking my blind spot after taking in this incendiary excursion.

(c) 2019 David N. Butterworth

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