DVD Road to Nowhere

DVD Road to Nowhere
DVD Road to Nowhere

Run time: 121 min
Rating: 5.6
Genres: Romance | Thriller
Director: Monte Hellman
Writers: Steven Gaydos
Stars: Tygh Runyan, Dominique Swain, Shannyn Sossamon
There’s a murky tenuous balance between reality and fiction; particularly when it involves a beautiful young woman, murder, a powerful politico, a missing fortune and suicide. A passionate filmmaker creating a film based upon a true crime casts an unknown mysterious young woman bearing a disturbing resemblance to the femme fatale in the story. Unsuspectingly, he finds himself drawn into a complex web of haunting intrigue, obsessed with the woman, the crime, her possibly notorious past and the disturbing complexity between art and truth. From the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina to Verona, Rome and London, new truths are revealed and clues to other crimes and passions, darker and even more complex are uncovered. Written by Anonymous
Plot Keywords: filmmaker, passion, murder, reality vs fiction
Country: USA
Release Date: 7 April 2011 (Portugal)
Box Office
Opening Weekend: $2,418 (USA) (10 June 2011)
Gross: $40,294 (USA) (16 September 2011)


  1. Opening medium shot: Shannyn Sossamon is sitting on a bed with her back to the headboard.The camera begins to move s-l-o-w-l-y toward a closeup of her face against a backdrop of silence. 3 minutes elapse as we watch her left hand move toward her face. She is holding a hair dryer. She turns it on. It blows in her face. During the next 2-3 minutes we watch as she moves the hair dryer closer to her face. We hear the motor purr. As this soporific scene concludes it sets the stage for a 120+ minute film that defies description. We soon learn that the story is about the shooting of a movie. Mademoiselle Sossamon has been chosen for the lead in this ‘movie within a movie’ She tells the Director she is ‘not an actress’ but he wants her anyway. I don’t blame him..she’s gorgeous and mysterious, perfect for a part that is the centerpiece of this convoluted, incomprehensible, maddening movie. As we watch various scenes of the director ‘shooting his movie,’ we become more confused regarding the storyline. When the director needs a retake, we watch him shoot the same scene over three times. More than likely the film editor went mad attempting to splice the scenes together to make a coherent story. Rather than give up, he spliced the scenes at random, collected his check and vanished. I commend him for having the courage to allow his name be listed in the credits. This movie was an endurance test. After the first 30 minutes, I took a bathroom break and noticed that at least half the audience had left, presumably in time to get their money back. I am aware there is an audience for this type of movie who enjoy obscure plots populated with ill defined characters. I’ll acknowledge that Director Monte Hellman has style, but I’m unable to describe it. If money is not an object, go see this movie. But don’t delay. I suspect the DVD is imminent.

  2. This was among the most exciting news in recent years. A new Monte Hellman film! In the pipeline for some time but released without any hooplah or major headlines, this much was at least proper for a man who's made incognito some of the most unique films in the American underground: Ride in the Whirlwind, The Shooting, Two-Lane Blacktop, Cockfighter. Tapping deep into American soul.

    But this one intrigued in a different way; gone but always remembered is the great Warren Oates, gone the mute drifters and brooding dusty alienation of that time, the long silences, but it would not be hackwork for hire, a re-shoot or mere work assignment, this one promised to be a dark personal vision like he hadn't been given the opportunity to direct in a long time.

    So gone is Blacktop and Oates, this is a new thing for Hellman. But old in terms of cinema. It is the old trope of a film about a film, filtered through film noir and French New Wave. Lynch, pundits assert.

    So one layer is a film about the makings of the film we are watching, referencing a life in movies and around movie sets that Hellman knows too well. Material deliberately chosen to be pulpy and reflecting movie plots that we know from noir is the backbone, a story of illicit love and suicide and behind it political intrigue and stolen money, presumably real events that our visionary filmmaker is fighting to turn into a movie.

    Another layer is that story interspersed throughout as a film-within and gradually being shaped into the film being shot. But is it? Or is something more sinister afoot and only masquerading as our film? The idea: where does one dream end and the next begin, and is the space where one bleeds into the other reality or fiction.

    The mechanisms that generate images are well sketched: desire, codified as our actress and referencing the femme fatale – another woman playing a role – and film noir dynamics, and the self perceiving itself separate, here very directly our filmmaker selectively framing a part of real life as a moving illusion.

    The downside is not that it's slow and muddled as reported by some viewers. The downside is that since Hellman's day we've had several filmmakers probe and abstract deeper. We've had Lynch. This is not as complex or dangerous as believes to be. The machinery is never less than obvious. And occasionally as hamfisted as a camera being mistaken by police for a gun.

    Hellman shoots this like it's going to be his crowning achievement. It's not, mostly because in this specific niche compete the most adventurous filmmakers of our time. This is not and has never been Hellman's natural space. He can't help but disappoint. But it's a new Hellman film and in a new direction and that's something to get excited for these days, right?

  3. 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.

  4. Ever see a movie that is full of art, depth and meaning, but you just don't like it?

    David Lynch movies strike me the same way. "Road to Nowhere" seems like a very Lynchian film. It carries a dark, brooding sense of imminent tragedy, characters are mysterious (some may say deliberately 2-dimensional), and the story disorients the viewer by leaping through different planes of existence. It's the kind of movie you're probably expected to view several times before you truly get it.

    The story takes us to a small town where we piece together a crime based on small fragments. The whole time, a movie is being filmed about the crime, and that's the real plot. It's actually pretty clever of the director to hit us with 2 simultaneous stories unfolding in cryptic bits, and if I had more patience, I could have absorbed it all. But for the first hour I was just struggling to figure out what's going on, and the long, slow pacing seemed to mock my struggle. Do not watch this movie unless you're prepared to sit for nearly 2 hours like a deer in the headlights.

    When the big picture finally materializes, it's almost too late. The abrupt ending may leave you feeling unsatisfied as it did me. But I guess that's where you're supposed to watch it again.

    There was one part I'm very glad I saw: a scene where one character recites the poem "Sonnet XXV" by George Santayana. I'd never heard that poem before and immediately paused the movie to look it up.

    Another scene, a short one of a plane crashing into a lake, struck me as beautiful. Make no mistake, even though I'm not a big fan of this movie, I enjoyed parts of it and would recommend it to fans of David Lynch ("Mulholland Drive"), Peter Greenaway ("Zed and two Naughts") or maybe–this is a stretch–Wim Wenders ("Paris, Texas"). It's also vaguely reminiscent of Jim Jarmusch ("Limits of Control") but it doesn't have Jarmusch's humorous moments, or any humor really. This is a very serious movie, made by serious people, intended for serious cinephiles. Do not watch this if you're in the mood for "Peewee's Big Adventure" or you'll be likely to crash your own airplane into a lake.

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