Friday, November 18, 2011

Letting Creativity Flow Without Fear: Monte Hellman's "Road To Nowhere"

Shannyn Sossamon in Monte Hellman's "Road to Nowhere."

By Lars Trodson  

Here's a fantasy: Monte Hellman's latest movie, "Road To Nowhere", gets submitted to film festivals. Juries hail the new direction this audacious talent has taken. Major studios bid for its distribution. It's released nationally. The performers in "Road To Nowhere" go off to busy Oscar-nominated careers and everyone would be asking: what will Hellman do next? Best of all, the meanings and merits of "Road To Nowhere" would be debated in the newspapers and the coffeehouses around the country.

But back to the reality: We don't live in the 1970s and these aren't terribly curious cinematic times.

And so Hellman's movie, finished in 2010, has not found a mass audience. It is the latest, but no means last, effort by the justifiably revered Hellman.

With "Road To Nowhere" Hellman adds a new color to his canvas. There is no stamp of the director's earlier, earthier works (seminal westerns with Jack Nicholson in the 1960s; "Two Lane Blacktop" in 1971) and little to connect it to the paint-by-numbers product Hollywood is happily and profitably offering up these days. It is its own animal. Hellman allows his movie to continue down its tunnels of dark possibilities.

The Monte Hellman Interview with Roundtable Pictures

Lars Trodson: There’s a moment in "Road To Nowhere" when Peter Bart from Variety asks the director Mitchell Haven “do you feel rusty?” and so, did you, after more than two decades away from making movies, feel rusty?

Monte Hellman: I always feel rusty in the sense that whenever I start a movie I don’t remember anything about the process. I have a panic attack several days before, but as soon as I get on the set - it’s kind of like you think you don’t know how to ride a bicycle, but when you get on it’s okay. That’s what happens. I get on the bicycle and sure enough I don’t fall off. That’s what happens everytime I make a movie.

LT: Technology has changed since you started making movies. I thought the way you shot this film was fascinating. (It was shot on the Canon 5D Mark II. The director of photography was Josep Civit.)

MH: The technology had been changing. It changes so fast you have to keep up with it everyday. But I had been into digital film photography for 20 years and so I had already decided in my mind that digital was better if only because you have more control. Every movie director is a control freak, and I’m no different. So when I saw that in still photography I could make much more precise adjustments and control the color much more accurately than you ever can when you’re dealing with chemical baths and the difference in temperature from one bath to another. It always drove me crazy when movies would shift color from one reel to another - so this way it’s consistent. I discovered that HDP is better. It’s almost like three dimensional when you see it.