As one who does not have English as native language this film demands attention and concentration. You have to get used to the constant bombardment of words, archive photos and films, interviews but if you succeed to do so, it really pays off. This rich film gives you so much American cultural history that you feel deeply informed – and entertained. Because it is not – as many films full of words – a boring film, it has a light tone led by co-producer Warren Leming’s wonderful, relaxed voice-off commentary that is miles away from an usual authoritarian television speak.
The starting point of the film is this poem by Walt Whitman: Afoot and lighthearted I take to the open road. Healthy, free, the world before me. The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose. (Song of the Open Road).
From this the film travels through literature and music and politics and philosophy having Mark Twain, Woody Guthrie (close-ups on his guitar text label: this machine kills fascists!) and Jack Kerouac of course, with his iconic inspiration Neil Cassady, as strong characters of the story that again and again refers back to Whitman. Not to forget Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan. It’s social history, it takes us to the horrible images from the Vietnam war and some veterans appear in the film. A gallery of people are interviewed, asked
to remember and analyse how and why. Sometimes this stops the flow of the story as ”experts” are not equally interesting to listen to. Anyway, the film as such is a work that you can only admire for its richness and ability to put the many Americana elements that we know about into a personal, intelligent perspective.
Here follows an edited quote from the fine site of the film:
The American road ‐ from the frontier iconography of John Ford’s films through rent‐a‐car cross country itineraries of the US – has inspired poetry, art, folk music, novelists and playwrights. In Hollywood the road film is a major genre. The thematic touchstone is the egalitarian ideal of the “open road” first expressed by poet Walt Whitman. Whitman clearly inspired Woody Guthrie through the hard traveling times of the 1930s, the purposeful meanderings of Jack Kerouac and his scruffy associates through the early post‐war years, and the adventures and misadventures of much of the 1960s generation and its successors. Whitman’s open road, said D. H. Lawrence, was “the bravest doctrine man ever proposed to himself.’ American Road is an exploration of that doctrine in action. The road also is a metaphor for personal and national transformation. The documentary ultimately explores what it means to be an American, not just a wayfarer…
USA, 1h.45 mins (in two parts), 2013
If you wish to see the fim there is contact info on the site