Starting this month, Dmitrii Kalashnikov’s experimental doc The Road Movie begins a theatrical tour that will last over a year. Toronto’s Royal Cinema is the first stop, and the journey continues through the United States before heading back to Canada next February; it concludes in Boulder, Colorado the following month. That’s impressive for a shoestring indie, especially one that would be “TOO HOT FOR TV”. Twenty years ago, Joe Francis would’ve sold this at 2:00am on FOX between reruns of Cops and The Jerry Springer Show.
I suppose I would’ve appreciated The Road Movie more if it wasn’t so vacuous. Kalashnikov has compiled just over an hour’s worth of video recorded by Russian dashboard cameras, and has edited the footage in a way that keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat (pardon the pun). The clips are genuinely shocking and some are even morbidly entertaining, which is why this content currently strives in small doses on platforms like YouTube. When an entire film consists of car crash montages, confrontational road rage, and speedsters crashing through scenery and animals, it devolves into a borderline snuff film and weird voyeurism.
Time to cheer up: you may remember last year’s Kedi. I hope you do; it was one of the best documentaries released in 2017. Kedi could’ve been a feature-length cat video, but director Ceyda Torun decided to fill the film with culture and relationships between stray felines and the people of Istanbul. So, why couldn’t Dmitrii Kalashnikov follow suit? Instead of showing audiences the umpteenth skidding car, why not dig deeper into the story behind some of the found footage? This might’ve been extra work for Kalashnikov, but at least the audience wouldn’t feel like gawking rubberneckers on the sidelines.
If Dmitrii Kalashnikov tried to spin his movie into a throwback of underground video nasties like Faces of Death, I wouldn’t be surprised. The Road Movie could very well be a cult film in the making. However, cult films are defined by their off-brand charm that separates them from the mainstream (such as the equally dangerous flick Roar). The only thing charming in The Road Movie is the contrast of what’s playing on the radio before the unpredictable horror outside the vehicle takes the wheel.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie