20 thoughts on “Road Movies: The Quest for Home

  1. Hmmm… While I haven’t paid to read your article, I will take exception to the concept of The Searchers as a “road movie”. To go along with that reading, pretty much all Westerns would have to be classified as road movies. But they’re actually, quite literally, “trail movies”, and dramatically differ in thematic terms from road movies. Road movies require automobiles and roads. It may seem like quibbling over semantics, but I think it’s more than that, as it really changes the contours of the genre. To that point, road movies generally aren’t about the quest for home; they’re about the quest for freedom. For example, Two Lane Blacktop is a prototypical road movie, (and a truly great movie), but yet violates your conditions. I’m not disagreeing with your taste here. The three movies you name are all pretty damn great, just disagreeing with your basic genre terminology.

    • I thought a lot about the idea of freedom when writing this article, and I respectfully disagree. What exactly is freedom, in a move? In life? In Thelma and Louise, is freedom the plunging of the two main characters to their death? Or the endings of Bonnie & Clyde or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?

      I’m not saying that all of those are necessarily road movies, and I also don’t think that all westerns are road movies (it is semantic to say they are trail movies; isn’t Moby-Dick a road novel, even though it takes place at sea?), or all road movies nothing but road movies. It’s a complex concept, and even those critics who have written about it disagree about the particulars.

      But, yes, in any case, those are three damn great movies, and seeing them all in one day, with Wenders introducing them, was quite an experience.

      • “In Thelma and Louise, is freedom the plunging of the two main characters to their death?”

        Hell, yes.

        “isn’t Moby-Dick a road novel, even though it takes place at sea?”

        Hell, no.

        “even those critics who have written about it disagree about the particulars.”

        Agreed, but I’d say the great majority are on my side of the divide.

        —–

        If you want to trace the “road genre”, go back to Kerouac’s On The Road: “Somewhere along the line I knew there would be girls, visions, everything; somewhere along the line the pearl would be handed to me.” That’s what the “road genre” is pretty much about. The individuality of the automobile allowing easy escape away from home and towards freedom is the essence of the thing. (Also, if you’ve never seen Two Lane Blacktop, while it really should be experienced in a cinema, it’s finally out on Blu. Highly recommended. Amazing direction, score, and cast.)

        • The road genre goes back much further: Don Quixote, The Canterbury Tales, The Odyssey; they’re all “road texts.” More recently, I’d say that The Grapes of Wrath is a more American road novel.

          I’ll look up Two Lane Blacktop; I don’t think I’ve ever seen it.

          As for critics, looking at the lists of road movies I found, I was surprised by many of them. Duel is not in any way a road movie; just because it takes place on a road doesn’t make it so. Star Wars is, in some ways, a road movie. Even Psycho starts as a road movie, but it doesn’t end well for the character setting out on the road.

          We’ll agree to disagree. Moby-Dick is clearly a road novel, just on a wet road. 🙂

          • “Duel is not in any way a road movie; just because it takes place on a road doesn’t make it so.”

            Agreed! Not about an escape away from home and towards freedom.

            “Even Psycho starts as a road movie”

            Agreed! Starts as an escape away from home and towards freedom.

            “We’ll agree to disagree. Moby-Dick is clearly a road novel, just on a wet road. :-)”

            We disagree because it isn’t about the quest for freedom…

            —–

            “The road genre goes back much further: Don Quixote, The Canterbury Tales, The Odyssey; they’re all “road texts.”

            I strongly caution on conflating “travelogues” with what we understand as the defining contours of the “road genre”. The individuality and freedom of the automobile changes everything, and creates the necessary conditions for the thematics of the genre. It’s why I question “the quest for home” as being even remotely compatible with the road genre. For example, the quite wonderful The 39 Steps is a travelogue, not a road movie, even though it takes place on the road. Just like The Odyssey, it’s all about getting home…

            • You’re mistaking the use of “home” as being the starting point. Since you haven’t read my article, you don’t know that that’s not what I mean. I mean home as the place where one feels at home; in road movies, this is often a new home, but sometimes one returns to the old home.

    • Oh, by the way, The Loop Magazine is $2 a month, with issues every two weeks. It’s got a lot of great content, not just my stuff.

      • I genuinely hope you get lots of readers, but I personally tend not to do business with Apple’s online commerce. Sell it thru Amazon, and I’d be more interested.

  2. Hmmm… While I haven’t paid to read your article, I will take exception to the concept of The Searchers as a “road movie”. To go along with that reading, pretty much all Westerns would have to be classified as road movies. But they’re actually, quite literally, “trail movies”, and dramatically differ in thematic terms from road movies. Road movies require automobiles and roads. It may seem like quibbling over semantics, but I think it’s more than that, as it really changes the contours of the genre. To that point, road movies generally aren’t about the quest for home; they’re about the quest for freedom. For example, Two Lane Blacktop is a prototypical road movie, (and a truly great movie), but yet violates your conditions. I’m not disagreeing with your taste here. The three movies you name are all pretty damn great, just disagreeing with your basic genre terminology.

    • I thought a lot about the idea of freedom when writing this article, and I respectfully disagree. What exactly is freedom, in a move? In life? In Thelma and Louise, is freedom the plunging of the two main characters to their death? Or the endings of Bonnie & Clyde or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?

      I’m not saying that all of those are necessarily road movies, and I also don’t think that all westerns are road movies (it is semantic to say they are trail movies; isn’t Moby-Dick a road novel, even though it takes place at sea?), or all road movies nothing but road movies. It’s a complex concept, and even those critics who have written about it disagree about the particulars.

      But, yes, in any case, those are three damn great movies, and seeing them all in one day, with Wenders introducing them, was quite an experience.

      • “In Thelma and Louise, is freedom the plunging of the two main characters to their death?”

        Hell, yes.

        “isn’t Moby-Dick a road novel, even though it takes place at sea?”

        Hell, no.

        “even those critics who have written about it disagree about the particulars.”

        Agreed, but I’d say the great majority are on my side of the divide.

        —–

        If you want to trace the “road genre”, go back to Kerouac’s On The Road: “Somewhere along the line I knew there would be girls, visions, everything; somewhere along the line the pearl would be handed to me.” That’s what the “road genre” is pretty much about. The individuality of the automobile allowing easy escape away from home and towards freedom is the essence of the thing. (Also, if you’ve never seen Two Lane Blacktop, while it really should be experienced in a cinema, it’s finally out on Blu. Highly recommended. Amazing direction, score, and cast.)

        • The road genre goes back much further: Don Quixote, The Canterbury Tales, The Odyssey; they’re all “road texts.” More recently, I’d say that The Grapes of Wrath is a more American road novel.

          I’ll look up Two Lane Blacktop; I don’t think I’ve ever seen it.

          As for critics, looking at the lists of road movies I found, I was surprised by many of them. Duel is not in any way a road movie; just because it takes place on a road doesn’t make it so. Star Wars is, in some ways, a road movie. Even Psycho starts as a road movie, but it doesn’t end well for the character setting out on the road.

          We’ll agree to disagree. Moby-Dick is clearly a road novel, just on a wet road. 🙂

          • “Duel is not in any way a road movie; just because it takes place on a road doesn’t make it so.”

            Agreed! Not about an escape away from home and towards freedom.

            “Even Psycho starts as a road movie”

            Agreed! Starts as an escape away from home and towards freedom.

            “We’ll agree to disagree. Moby-Dick is clearly a road novel, just on a wet road. :-)”

            We disagree because it isn’t about the quest for freedom…

            —–

            “The road genre goes back much further: Don Quixote, The Canterbury Tales, The Odyssey; they’re all “road texts.”

            I strongly caution on conflating “travelogues” with what we understand as the defining contours of the “road genre”. The individuality and freedom of the automobile changes everything, and creates the necessary conditions for the thematics of the genre. It’s why I question “the quest for home” as being even remotely compatible with the road genre. For example, the quite wonderful The 39 Steps is a travelogue, not a road movie, even though it takes place on the road. Just like The Odyssey, it’s all about getting home…

            • You’re mistaking the use of “home” as being the starting point. Since you haven’t read my article, you don’t know that that’s not what I mean. I mean home as the place where one feels at home; in road movies, this is often a new home, but sometimes one returns to the old home.

    • Oh, by the way, The Loop Magazine is $2 a month, with issues every two weeks. It’s got a lot of great content, not just my stuff.

      • I genuinely hope you get lots of readers, but I personally tend not to do business with Apple’s online commerce. Sell it thru Amazon, and I’d be more interested.

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