Road to Nowhere comes to Region A-locked US Blu-ray complete with a 1080p High Definition video rendition, presented in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.78:1 widescreen. Considering that the movie was shot on handheld Canon 5D Mark II digital cameras (as shown by the director of the movie within the movie), it looks remarkably good throughout, although it seldom has that cinematic feel which takes films beyond their low budget origins – the image often betraying the inherent clinical soulless trappings of this kind of basic digital photography. Still, detail is generally very good, with only a few moments of softness to impinge upon your visual pleasure. Edge enhancement appears to be non-existent, with no DNR either. The colour scheme is quite limited – to marry up to the material – but the dour palette never allows for bold or striking tones, apart from on occasion when a dress, or sunny day breaks the rule. Black levels are reasonably strong but there is a hint of crush and some occasional niggling posterization which further brings this presentation down. Overall, probably better looking than you would expect from a film of this budget or style, but still far from great.
On the aural front the accompanying Dolby Digital 5.1 track is, without a shadow of a doubt, extremely limited – but, then again, so is the material itself that it seeks to depict. There’s very little going on in this movie at all, and certainly nothing to warrant any kind of extensive surround use, or LFE grounding, but you do have to wonder whether a more observant aural accompaniment might have offered up a better atmosphere for this film, irrespective of the lack of overt bombast. Still, at least the dialogue is presented clearly and coherently, dominating the frontal array where appropriate, and that is fairly important for such a dialogue-driven drama. The only other aspect worth mentioning is the 70s-esque score, which, whilst not particularly memorable, also offers up something for the surrounds to do. All in all, a very limited audio offering for very limited material.
On the extras front this disc boasts just three offerings: a Behind the Scenes Featurette, an Interview with the lead actress Shannyn Sossamon, and a Q & A Featurette. The most interesting of these is probably the Behind the Scenes Featurette which, beyond just the standard background footage and interview snippets with cast and crew members, also explores the real small-town mystery which forms the backbone of the story-within-the-story. The Interview with Sossamon does not offer up a great deal of background into either the actress of her character, other than perhaps an unnecessary display of whimsy on her part, and the Q & A, more dominated by the writer than the director, also does not reveal enough about this odd production.
Road to Nowhere is a clever exercise in somewhat experimental independent filmmaking, with cult director Monte Hellman returning from a 21-year absence to bring us this complex and personal production – which offers up a labyrinthine plot-within-a-plot-within-a-plot reminiscent of the works of David Lynch, and seeks to highlight the blurred lines between reality and fiction, particularly when absorbed through the cinematic medium. As a film experiment it will likely be taught to many budding film students for years to come. As a movie, however, it is far too smug for its own good, and the director loses sight of all that would be entertaining, instead so focussed on showing off his skills and cinematic sleight of hand, and forgetting about such integral things as an engaging story, solid performances, and well-rounded characters for the audience to attach to. This self-serving ego-trip chooses to alienate all but the most die-hard Hellman fans / studiers of film, and ends up being a soulless, often even tedious literal road to nowhere.
On Region A-locked US Blu-ray the presentation is pretty average – about what you would expect from this kind of relatively low budget indie production – and we get a couple of extras to round off the disc, but nothing to bring out the kind of depth that you would have liked for such a mystery drama. Mulholland Drive, this is not, and Hellman has forgotten one key thing in seeking to forge a classically Lynchian piece of art: the damn thing still has to be entertaining. If you’re a massive Hellman fan, then nothing I can say will really put you off picking up this movie, and, as stated, if you’re viewing it with a view to learning about the art of filmmaking, then there are plenty of tricks on offer here, but realistically this is one that I’m not sure I would even recommend as a rental.
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