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Vanishing Point (1971)

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Professional driver Kowalski (Barry Newman) takes a bet to ride his Dodge Challenger R/T from Colorado to San Francisco in less than 15 hours. On his way he fights obstacles and gains supporters, like a blind radio DJ (Cleavon Little) who is able to scan the broadcasts of the police…

For this class I choose the uncut version that only was released in the UK and is seven minutes longer than the US movie. A typical example of a cult movie, this film was a critical as well as a financial failure upon its release in the US. However, after being successful in Europe, the film was re-released in a double bill with “The French Connection” (1971). Running in drive-in theaters and on TV afterwards, the film since then has gained a respectable cult following. Steven Spielberg has named it among his favorite movies (there are some analogies to his 1971 film “Duel”), and Quentin Tarantino paid his homage to it in “Death Proof” (2007). A remake was done for TV in 1997, and “Donnie Darko” director Richard Kelly seems currently to plan another remake for the big screen.

The film was shot by director Richard C. Serafian on a low budget of 1,6 Million US $, but gained over the years more than 12 Million US $ at the box office. Despite its many locations, the film was shot in just 38 days (instead of 60 planned days due to a sudden budget shortage through the studio) with – for its days – light-weight ARRI II cameras and a small crew of 19 (excluding actors). I will leave the end of this film up to your interpretation (before you will hear mine of course). But it might be helpful for you to consider what Barry Newman has pointed in an interview: “… no matter how far they push or chase you, no one can truly take away your freedom…”

IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0067927/?ref_=nv_sr_1

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32 responses to “Vanishing Point (1971)

  1. Richard Specht ⋅

    This movie was not very interesting. One of the only things I liked about this film was the Charger that he was driving. I guess I liked the fact that he got away from the cops and even in the end they still never got him either. I guess that is why he drove straight into the bulldozers, so he could prove to the world that he could not be caught. Maybe it is a bad interpretation, but that is what I get out of it. The film definitely needed more breasts in it. The scenes that had naked girls in it were great, but it would have been way better if there was more. That is what makes a good movie for me, maybe even the world. Everyone wants to see a nice set of breasts.

    The blind black DJ was way to cliche. Is every black blind person that funky and groovy? I do not believe so, but in movies they always are. That movie could have done just fine without him, but I guess he helped move the “story” along. So I guess he was needed.

    I was not sure as to why he wanted to deliver that before a certain time throughout the whole movie. Why would any man turn down sexy girls? There is always time for that. I guess he wanted to get the car in San Francisco before a certain time to prove that he could drive that fast? Or that he could get there in one piece? Whatever the case was, his intentions seemed to be a little full of himself. This movie did not give me any self inspiration or whatever people get out of cult films, so I do not think that I will watch it again.

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    • “Everyone want so to see a nice set of breasts.”

      I do agree with you though that the blind DJ was cliche. That did bother me a bit. I don’t think the reason he was driving so fast was to simply prove that he could do it. He didn’t seem like an egomaniac or anything. I think that he had resolved to end it all towards the beginning of the film. After he saw the first blonde girl when he was making the bet with his friend, he was overcome by the good memories of the woman he loved. Nothing really mattered to him anymore.
      Also, he was taking speed. haha

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  2. Kris ⋅

    Vanishing Point

    Vanishing Point truly is a cult classic. Unlike my Hannie Cauldor post, I’m going to explain the quality aspects of Vanishing Point first and then I will explain why this film inevitably falls flat.

    First, the most important positive of Vanishing Point, the cinematography; it is absolutely superb. It’s very evident that John Alonzo, the DoP, knew exactly what he was doing and how to do it. Alonzo also worked on Chinatown starring Jack Nicholson and Scarface with Al Pacino. However these two movies were after Vanishing Point and it’s his work before Vanishing Point that is very important. From 1967 to 1969, Alonzo worked on numerous nature and animal documentaries. Two of which are of importance here: The Big land, which showcases the damming of rivers and the destruction of the local habitats in the American southwest and The World of Animals: Big Cats and Little Cats.

    Why are nature documentaries important when discussing a film about high-speed car chases and bandits in a wide-open desert landscape? Because you can’t just have any DoP be able to pull off high-speed car chases and filming wide-open landscapes artistically without some experience in the field.

    Alonzo’s Big Cats and Little Cats showcase cats, in the savanna, moving at high speeds. Cheetahs routinely cross the 60 mph line and to be able to film that at a safe distance with a nearly 100lb camera with an extreme telephoto cinema lens takes a lot of skill and practice. Now we can start to make comparisons with Vanishing Point where many of the scenes (almost all) involve filming a high speed-moving object, the Dodge Challenger. Alonzo already knew how the Panavision Reflex, R200, and Silent Reflex (PSR) cameras would react to panning on a fast moving object. That skill allowed for the beautiful high-speed scenes.

    He also knew how to make the camera stable either on a follow rig (a rig attached to another vehicle following another vehicle) and an attached rig (a rig attached to the vehicle itself). These cameras did not have EIS (electronic image stabilizing), 5-Axis IBIS (in-body image stabilizing with Z-axis control) or LCIS (lens corrected image stabilization). He learned these EISS (external image stabilizing systems) skills from his work documenting animals and nature. There are instances in his documentaries where it’s clear he was on a moving vehicle following the action.

    Big Land shows large sweeping landscape scenes of West and South West deserts of America. Alonzo was already familiar with the terrain of which Vanishing Point was shot in. He already filmed most of it. Cameras really don’t like dust and heat. Lenses don’t like dust and heat. The Nevada desert in Vanishing Point has plenty of dust and heat. Alonzo knew how to combat these destructive elements while filming the wide-open scenes of Vanishing Point.

    The casting of Barry Newman as Kowalski was also spot on. He looks the part and his acting in the film was actually really good. He looks like a modern day cowboy and fits right in with the style I believe the film expresses. There really wasn’t any bad acting in the film. I mean it’s not Oscar or Emmy material but it’s definitely not bad at all.

    Unfortunately, good acting and excellent cinematography can’t save this film from its biggest flaw, story and plot. It’s difficult to explain how the story and plot fall apart late into the film but I will try my best to break this story down to a basic element and then explain why this basic element doesn’t work. In effect, it’s like explaining why the house fell down by examining the blue prints of the house. So let’s examine a simple blue print of story: The Hero Archetype.

    Since the beginning of stories (starting with Gilgamesh, written roughly 3,000 years ago in ancient cuneiform), there existed the hero archetype, the basic structure of narrative story. Universally agreed upon by scholars, the hero archetype follows three patterns: the quest hero, where the hero embarks on an adventure/quest to perform a goal or do something (Frodo in Lord of the Rings). The self-realization hero, where the hero realizes something about himself or grows from an experience to become the hero and save the people (actually the story of Gilgamesh follows this archetype). And the sacrificial hero, where the hero sacrifices himself for the good of the people (the story of Jesus Christ is a prime example of a hero who sacrifices, his life in this case, for the good of the people). These archetypes are the basic blue prints or foundation for telling a narrative story.

    So, let’s look at where Kowalski fits into this. It’s very easy to come to the conclusion that Kowaski fits in with the third archetype; the hero sacrifices himself for the good of the people. Though this is where the story falls apart.

    The character of Kowalski seems confused at to what archetype he should be placed in. He starts out on a quest (archetype one) delivery of a vehicle. This is a journey that Kowalski embarks on to complete a task or goal, the delivery of a vehicle. It’s not clear whether Kowalski starts to slide into the second archetype during the middle of the film, realizing something about himself or not which will allow him to help the people. There are some points in the film where it seems that he is realizing that he is a good guy and helps people along the way. Though the people in this case seem to be against him (the two hitchhiker bandits). That is confusing in on its self. Is he realizing something about himself during his quest, or did the realization before the quest already take place? It’s never really clear in the film.

    Then, and this is explicit, Kowalski, jumps right out of the already established first hero archetype and right into the third, the sacrificial hero. This is so unexpected. The film hints at the second archetype, drifting from the first archetype, and then immediately the character and narrative of Kowalski was actually the third hero archetype the entire time.

    Ok this isn’t to bad in on itself. Even Gilgamesh starts as the first hero archetype and then finishes the story as the second hero archetype with subtle hints of the third archetype at the very end of the story. So stories can, if written properly effectively cross in and out of archetypes. Frodo is on the quest to destroy the ring of power but he realizes things about himself on the way that assist and empower him to complete the main quest, to fulfill the main archetype. The second archetype is only brought in to assist him in the main archetype. This is effective writing and the main archetype/goal/quest is never lost.

    Vanishing Point’s main archetype is the third archetype; it has to be because the hero Kowalski dies at the end. He sacrifices himself for the good of the what? The third archetype doesn’t support or help the first archetype of the quest, where he’s on the quest to deliver the car. He destroys the car too. And Vice Versa, destroying the car doesn’t help or assist the first archetype. So he failed the first archetype. But he didn’t succeed in the third archetype either.

    In the story of Jesus Christ, Christ sacrifices himself and endures pain and suffering, knowing he would be resurrected, helping the people find God in the process. He helps the people by sacrifice. The story of Christ is pure third archetype that’s why I’m using it as an example.

    But how does Kowalski’s death help or save the people? For freedom? To make a statement? His own selfish reasons? It’s never made clear why Kowalski sacrifices himself and that is where the story breaks down.

    Any other plot hole or story error can be traced back to the single point that there was no reason for Kowalski to sacrifice himself. There was no reason or support to have the character jump right out of archetype one and into archetype three. So why did the house fall down around the story of Vanishing Point, one brick in the foundation was out of place.

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  3. Tim ⋅

    I actually enjoyed watching this film, as it seems to be one of those strange mixes of the 60’s era psychedelia and the 70’s car chase movies. However despite all the great car scenes, I feel that the film’s main weakness is its plot. Though good, it could have been much better too… I mean it could have been so much better had it focused more on the main character and less on that psychedelic rubbish.
    After watching this film, I know what happens in it – Kowalski, driving a car across the States to deliver it to the west coast, becomes the target of a nationwide police hunt, while simultaneously becoming some sort of a folk hero thanks to a blind radio DJ – but I still don’t know what the heck is this film about. Maybe there is a subtext at work here which references national issues? Or is there some sort of a hidden message? Maybe I’m not capable of reading the subtext. Or maybe there simply isn’t one…
    In so many films of that era the main character encounters strange people on the way, just to be strange and add that quirky twist that actually does nothing to the overall story. In Vanishing Point there are two gay criminals, in one of the most ridiculous scenes I have ever watched that seems just thrown in and completely pointless. Another thing that I am not sure about is Kowalski’s costume, I mean why is he dressed like a Hobbit?
    If you expect a great plot and great acting, you’ll be disappointed. The performances are good, but the standout is the chase sequences that are brilliantly constructed and are truly entertaining. That 1970 Dodge Challenger for me is the real and the only star of the film. Richard Sarafian’s did a great job, and each car chase scene is adrenaline inducing and hard to keep your eyes off. I agree with Kris about the cinematography – it is indeed absolutely stunning. So if you want some proper car chase scenes, without the use of CGI and non of that modern computer generated crap, then give this film a shot as it relies only on the talented drivers to create the chases and it definitely pays off.
    Vanishing Point is far from perfect and despite its flaws, this is a pretty good film worth seeing if you are an automobile enthusiast and love genuine car chases.

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  4. ken032192

    Okay, let me start off by saying this: Vanishing Point was quite a weird movie, and I mean really weird, and it was more like a mixed bag between the good and and the bad. It is certainly not like any of the other films I’ve watched from this class, and is quite unique in that respect. I don’t think I’ve watched many road movies before, though from what I’ve watch from beginning to end in this film, I have to say it was only rather “okay”, it’s neither bad or good, just alright for the most part.

    For starters, the main protagonist, Kowalski himself. At first, I found him to be a man shrouded in mystery, as at the beginning he seemed to be so obsessed with driving his Dodge Challenger car and so speed-driven in outrunning the police for the majority of the movie. Kowalski just seemed much like a speed demon in that regard, and didn’t see much of a personality in him besides that. Though, he also appeared to be quite a determined, hard worker when he insisted on finishing his delivery assignment before a particular time, and when he bet the dealer at the bar that he would deliver the car by then. On that note, I thought of him more as a devoted speed demon, who cares nothing but driving extremely fast for pleasure and always outsmarting the police in one way and another, and assures that he will get the job done as he confidently promised earlier. When the movie revealed that Kowalski actually had multiple other occupations before, namely the Vietnam War veteran, and former race car and motorcycle racer, I find him to be less of a mysterious person with his past revealed, though still think of him as a hard working and devoted man when it comes to getting his job done. While I find it interesting in how Kowalski is quite dedicated in finishing his delivery assignment, I do believe his exact motives for doing so is quite questionable, if he even has any motives for that matter. I simply find it confusing as to why Kowalski insisted on finishing his delivery assignment a few days earlier than when it is normally due on a Monday, and the movie never appeared to address this questionable aspect whatsoever. It looked more like he really wanted to finish the assignment as soon as he could to prove how he devoted he is and that he is a man of his word, but for what reason exactly? There really seems to be no clear explanation as to why he would to finish his assignment that early, nor even any soft of gains or benefits he could get from that, it almost seems like he wanted to do what he wants for no apparent reason. I also felt that as the main protagonist himself, he didn’t seem to have that much dialogue compared to most of the other characters in the movie, as he spends the majority of the film speeding though like some some sort of power-hungry speed demon. In the scenes that he does talk though, he seemed to be more of like a calm, badass person that doesn’t speak much, yet makes a lasting impression to others, as I described him earlier. He also doesn’t seem to be fazed much by any distractions or annoyances for the most part, though can use physical force to deal with certain situations, like when he knocked off the random Jaguar driver into the river, and when he threw away the two homosexual men off of his car when they held him up at gunpoint.

    One character in particular that I found to be memorable was the blind black DJ, Super Soul. He played quite a huge role in cheering for Kowalski and encouraging him to escape from the police, being so loud and cheerful as he broadcasted the whole runaway experience. Though I found it slightly confusing as to how a blind man like him could act so that enthusiastic, I did find many of his moments to be enjoyable and hilarious to watch. I also admired the few moments when he appeared to be calmer and sympathetic to Kowalski, only for the blind DJ to be back in high spirits towards the end of the movie. I did feel sorry for him that he was assaulted by some of the thugs though, but felt relieved when he was fine afterwards. I also enjoyed the few romantic moments Kowalski had when he interacted with a couple of women who appeared to be interested in him, like the nude motorcycle lady at the end of the movie. Though the ladies were quite sexually attractive and arousing for me, I just wish they could have at least a bit more interaction with Kowalski, let alone him actually agreeing to go out with him and all. Not to mention, both of them could have had at least larger bust sizes, but that’s besides the point there. Though the romantic scenes were few and far between, they were still a nice break from the intense speed-driven driving scenes and a pleasant distraction from all the action to me.

    The ending, however, was what really confused me, and was quite a shocking and unexpected conclusion as well. I honestly had no idea why Kowalski suddenly smiled before he crashed into the two bulldozers that were inevitably the roadblock to his speed-crazed obsession, and of course the very end of his life. It’s almost as if he knew that after running away from the police for so long, he anticipated something like that would happen, and then finally gave up at the last minute and decides to die all of a sudden. Was he waiting for the exact, opportune moment to die all this time? Did he really want to get his life over with and got tired of being speed-obsessed? Did he honestly think the bulldozer roadblock was the perfect nail to his coffin? These questions may never be answered, since it is quite unclear and mysterious as to what lead Kowalski “accept” his apparent death.

    All in all, Vanishing Point was quite a bizarre movie with its fair share of good and bad moments, and I find it rather okay. It did have a decent amount of entertainment in some of its scenes, complete with occasional humor, a bit of romance, and some decent action-packed driving scenes as well. Though if you put issues such as Kowalski’s questionable motives, lack of morality/gains, and the incredibly unexpected ending, it’s quite obvious that this movie has quite a lot of flaws as a result. As I’ve said earlier, I have not watched a lot of road movies before, but I only hope that if I were to see another one, that it would be more entertaining than this one, and not just be one huge and confusing mixed bag of the good and the bad together.

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  5. hanaji0 ⋅

    There are several scenes which struck my attention. One of them is the scene where the naked girl on the beach appeared. I could not understand the situation when she left riding on a bike. She was not wearing any clothes. What is the point of her being naked? Is it normal to see naked people riding on bikes? However, at the same time, it is true that this kind of weirdness is also what makes this film unique.
    The most interest scene in this film is the ending. When people start gathering by the road, the camera catches people as if it is a documentary film. As Professor Neubert explained it during the class, they seemed to be normal people who were collected as extras for this scene. Those people do not seem that they are really acting. Instead, they are more like people who are there to see what is going on there as if they are waiting to witness some interesting event. It is ok because that is what their roles are in the film. What is more funny is that after the car crashes with a great explosion, nobody seems to be terrified, scared or shocked at all. When I watched the crash scene, I was shocked terribly and could not believe that it really happened. In contrast, they look too calm and neutral as if they knew what was going to happen there, which disturbs me at the end.

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  6. Roger Murdock ⋅

    Vanishing Point was incredibly enjoyable. Capturing the “free-spirit” age through a stoic hero, so true to his own values that he cannot escape death yet he has no intentions. Kowalski, played by Barry Newman, is the perfect character, an ex-racecar driver who has lived life to its fullest, embracing thrill and danger without fear. After this exciting, free-spirited youth, through flashbacks, the audience learns of his attempt to “fit into” society, and mature into a day job as a cop – a government position so literally tied in with “the state.” As a cop, Kowalski is exposed to the corrupt nature of society as his partner attempts to rape a young helpless free-spirited girl, and Kowalski must break his shell and stop his co-officer. Later, as the film follows him as he drives from Denver, Colorado to San Francisco, the “mecca”, so to speak, of the free-spirited world, the police attempt to stop his reckless behavior and catch him as he flees them at will. His journey is metaphoric, as his escape from the daily routine and societal “pressure” is symbolically depicted through a thrilling car-chase. As he drives, he has a supernatural connection to a radio host who plays free-spirited rock and roll hits music from the era, adding to the origins of Kowalski’s emotions. The film successfully uses avant-garde film techniques which capture the artful and creative passion that defies the mainstream. A brilliant film that should not be forgotten by future generations.

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  7. michi1st

    I personally never really liked this movie. I have seen it before and I did not enjoy seeing it again. It is difficult to watch when you already get motion sickness, and the blurry and shaky camera work (obviously stylistic choices worked in with the shorter budget) made it a little too “in your face.” Though, purely speaking of cinematography, it works for the movie. The movie gets away with it too because it has that specific “light it up/be free” atmosphere.

    When it comes to the appeal of this movie, I feel like most of it is strictly for car fanatics. Personally, I don’t care about cars nor do I care to see a movie about a guy racing against the clock and driving away from the cops for…however many hours the movie is. This movie always felt less about the actual movie and more about the action and chase scenes.

    I am going to avoid reading into this movie too much. There is definitely an “indie” artistic vibe to this film that needs to be appreciated, but a lot of this movie is too racy for my liking. Maybe I am just a stiff or have no interest to watching a character be high for most of a movie.

    Even though I don’t personally like the movie however, I still think that it’s worth watching. It has it’s moments cinematically, but other than that I don’t really care.

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  8. janey ⋅

    Vanishing point was okay for me. I felt like it was just a collage of the 70s and a car chase.

    The beginning was a bit slow but after that the pacing seemed better. There was a lot of ambiguity in this film. For example, I don’t think it was made clear that he was trying to get to San Francisco by a certain time as part of a bet. Also that his girlfriend had died in a surfing accident. If Kowalski is suppose to be mourning, I didn’t really see it that clearly in the film.

    I didn’t really understand the point of some of the flash backs. For example the part where we find out that he was a former cop that stopped his partner from raping a young girl, I didn’t really see how that was relevant to the story. We already get the idea that Kowalski is a good guy. We see that in the various scenes where he stops his car to check if people are alright when they crash on the side of the road or off a bridge after racing with him.

    I did think his character was kind of cool though. There wasn’t too much talking from his character, which I think was worked well for this film.

    I have to say the ending really did surprise me, I didn’t think he would drive to his death.

    I think someone had and interesting analysis about the ending stating that by going straight into the bulldozers showed that Kowalski could never be caught.

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  9. Marya ⋅

    The production quality was exceptionally well done regardless the budget cut and reduction in production time. The chase scene was thrilling with numerous shots of crashes and explosions. The shots and angles were really good and it was entertaining to watch. However, I got a little bored as we got into the movie since the film it self was mainly comprised of car chase scene, it got old after a while.

    I loved the music selection in the film. It had elements of 70’s soul, funk, groove and rock n roll. It really gave us viewer the insight to the music culture of the 70’s and the impact of the hippie movement. I also think it added to build up characteristic and heightened the tension of certain scenes. The BGM played in the first chase scene stuck out to me out them all, the music had a banjo playing and had a country taste to it (something that would be played in a comic relief western). It gave the scene a comical and cheeky look to it. I couldn’t help but to laugh at the cheesy music played for the scenes in which Kowalski is at the beach with a semi-nude woman and when he encounters the full nude woman. I found the scenes to be extremely cheesy rather than romantic and sexy.

    I found the events occurring during Kowalski’s drive to San Francisco were utterly random. I found it hard to even make sense in some of them. He meets the newly wedded gay couple and somehow threatened with a gun, then some guy trying catch a rattle snake and then he conveniently encounters a friendly biker who offers him tree drugs, the naked woman seducing him and offering him sex. I know the 70’s were all about drugs, sex and peace but surely people couldn’t have been this open and friendly in a creepy sense. It was just weird. Perhaps, the director was trying to symbolize these women who are practically naked as a sign of liberation in open sexuality.

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  10. I honestly was in the middle with vanishing point. The movie was pretty crazy, I lived all the action scenes but didn’t enjoy the crazy concept. I don’t mind highs concept films. The cinematography was crazy and very we’ll done. It matched the style of movie and put things in to perspective through the lens perfectly. They really captured the lifestyle of their time period also in that movie. Being released in 71 it was the beginning of the sexual lib station period. The start of a time period where drugs and sex where the thing to do so this movie was almost a start and a starting line. It gave people of the time a go to. I didn’t really understand the killing if himself. Why not attempt to keep going? Was it the drugs maybe? Who knows I’d have to hear a better explanation of the film. Overall I likes it but didn’t like the film.

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  11. tatsuya ⋅

    “Vanishing Point” is not my favorite film when I think about the story. At the begining, there is not much about the main chracter’s information. As the story goes, audiences get to understand the reasons why he was chased by the polices. only reason why I did not really like this film was that the scene of the car chasing is too long and he always escapes from the polices. I think this story could be more interesting with the car action scenes because they are very exciting with the super car Dodge Challenger, at that time, it was one of the dream cars people whould like to buy. It is like, for example, that recent films use super cars to chase with something.

    The most interesting element of this film is how the two scenes of the car chasing and the radio station switch one from another when there is a sound track playing continusly. I thought that this scene was very smooth and dynamic. Also the music used in the film was very interesting and matches to the atmosphere of the film.

    Kowalski, the main character, who chses the polices is portrayed as a really cool person who does not change his face when the polices are after him, like a man of few words. He keeps accelerating his Challenger and passes police’s barricades easily but he also keeps going toward to the vanishing point. That is why the film is named “Vanishing Point”.

    There are the sub lines on the screen saying the time and the locations at several points. And the white car and the black car pass by each other at the beginning of the film. I really like those points in the film but not the story or storytelling of the film.

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  12. I am very indifferent about this movie. While it was something I couldn’t ave enjoyed, I also found it very boring. I liked the cinematography and the plot, but it also just seemed a little long and…pointless. I realize that the main character had a bet and had to make the deadline, but I don’t see the point. Maybe if I was a guy and enjoyed cars and racing, maybe I would enjoy it more also.

    Though I did like how his past was showed in small clips that didn’t make too much sense until the puzzle pieces fit together in the present. The car racing. The police job.

    I did find it interesting when he was reunited with the girl he saved, and she offered her body. Although it was her way to say thank you and repay him by trying to “serve” him. Though, as a female, I do not see how giving herself to him in that manner is kind of redundant. I don’t know how I felt about it but I did not like it. That I do know.

    But I will say, I did like the ending. And I did like how super soul was connected to him in an odd way. That was interesting. And it is very impressive that they did this all with 19 people on the crew.

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  13. maiorengi

    The title Vanishing Point caught my attention when I first saw the first scene of the film. There was a scene where the two tractors came together creating the inverted V shape with leaving a small space in the center. As far as I remember, there appears a person filling its empty small space between the tractors. Along with this particular scene, POV from Kowalski frequently had a similar effect. Indeed, the straight parallel line
     
    I was impressed by the fact that not too many crews were involved in creating during the shooting. The scenes, in fact, were very dramatic creating the tension of the story.
     
    I am not a huge fan of car-racing film so the content of the story seemed a little boring. It seems to me that the major part of the story is just Kowalski driving his car. It was very much alike watching Nascar or F1 with less narration.
     
    Also, the scattered flashback scenes were really hard to understand. I almost thought that the naked girl riding the bicycle was the one Kowalski was thinking of all the time. The same thing can be said of a girl who appeared in one of the last scenes. Perhaps, were the Caucasian mysterious handsome man and the blond skinny woman the great package for the film?

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    • I thought the naked girl driving the motorcycle was a flashback too. I was a bit disappointed when I found out it was real, because it seemed ridiculous to me. Maybe that was normal in the 70’s though. haha

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  14. tbrenji

    It was quite simple to understand why Vanishing Point was successful for it’s time. It may not have been part of top choices for must see films, but due to the fact that I understood the time in which it was produced and the lifestyle of the American population I was able to grasp the concept and significance of the film. It came during a time of free spirit and a need to challenge authority when the population felt suffocated. At first, the opening sequence was a bit confusing. Mostly in regards to the scene where Kawolsky drives by his past self. My first impression was that this scene was Kawolsky’s way of escaping the police by being picked up by another car. But after the opening it way clear that the audience was being shown a past event. What the film did well was continue the concept of speed. In relation to the current times, the idea of speed is kept up throughout the entire film. During this time, America’s trust in its government of at least law enforcement was wavering. The population of youth and influential bodies searched for ways to express themselves freely and without censorship. In a way you could consider them running from the bounds officials were trying to put on them. Kawolski embodies this concept very visually as he makes his run, never wanting to slow down and only stopping when he wanted to. He only stopped for himself or people like minded and speeding when confronted by law enforcement. In a seen where Kawolski is speaking to his friend and drug dealer on the phone, his dealer asks “what are you trying to prove?”. In my opinion, Kawolski was trying to uphold the idea that the public mustn’t place their faith on the current system. He felt they should continue to question, criticize and challenge what they believe is wrong with the system and the action of “stopping” would have been an analogy to the population giving in to the corrupt and accepting defeat. We learn in history that this is in fact what the people has done, they continued to challenge the system with protests and movements against the corrupt and although there were casualties and collateral damage American as a whole moved to a more democratic state. The concept of speed was also reoccurring in the personal decisions Kawolski made on his journey. Kawolski chose options that insinuated the opposition of slowing down and continuation of speeding. An example of this is when he is offered sex by the naked woman on the motorcycle. Although the scene seems humorous and innocent to an extent, we learn that there is no scene in a film which either does not move the story forward and reveals something about the character. In this scene, the use of sex mirrors the idea of slowing down. After two people have been intimate, each individual usually comes down from a euphoric state and tries to slowly collect themselves from the intense experience. Kawolski turns the woman’s offer down which can be seen as his refusal to slow down. Another example is Kawolski’s actually habit of drug use. Throughout the film, Kawolski is offered marijuana a number of times. This drug is usually referred to as a downer or relaxer drug and those under the influence tends to show symptoms of slow mobility. Kawolski also refuses this drug but does accept and search for a drug called “speed”. This drug is referred to as an upper and tends to make a person more active which follows the film’s theme.

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  15. Carl ⋅

    This movie was amazing from start to finish. The stunts in the movie “Vanishing Point” was ahead of its time. The main character Kowalski (Barry Newman) did an excellent portraying the role of a loose cannon. The second star of the film was the Dodge Challenger. Such an iconic vehicle in which was a high light of the film. Majority of movies in that time were using foreign cars, this movie gave us Americans a sense of pride and wellbeing. The budget for this film was 1.6 million, in which I felt every cent was spent effectively. This film came out very well due to only having 38 days of shooting. In today’s day and age, it’s very rare for a very successful movie Some of the high lights of the film were the nudity. I am a huge fan of vulgar imagery, brings a raw element to the film. Another thing I enjoyed about the film was the intense action scenes and car chases. The director (Richard C. Serafian) made the best out of the budget as mentioned earlier. The film made approximately 12 million dollars due to its amazing filmography. In my opinion this film was remarkable, the only thing in which I wasn’t impressed with, was the ending. I was expecting a more entertaining ending due to the suspense buildup of the film.

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  16. Hosta Mahogey ⋅

    I love films like Vanishing Point; films that are more about an idea than specific plot elements. Kuwalski stands for anti-establishment. Sure, he is the “bad” guy in this move, as he is consistently popping some speed and breaking the law. But, damn, he is free.

    Vanishing Point has a peculiar sense of mysticism about it, always making me question if there are supernatural things happening. Most notably is the connection between Kuwalski and the radio DJ. At times it is a literal radio message from the DJ to Kuwalski. Other times, they communicate sort of telepathically. Another mystical element is the visit from the lady hitchhiker.

    The cinematography is a big standout in the film in my opinion. This is especially the case for the intense car chase scenes.

    Another favorite element of the film is how the mysterious plot is revealed. Every obstacle Kuwalski overcomes, a snippet of his past is revealed. You go into the film not knowing anything about this man, so I was excited to learn about his history.

    Overall, I really enjoyed Vanishing Point. The fact that it was a relatively small production makes it even cooler. I would definitely recommend the movie to a friend.

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  17. I guess I see this film as more of a work of art than a piece of entertainment. That’s why I don’t really have an issue with its apparent lack of plot.
    Some of the scenes did seem a little redundant and didn’t serve a purpose to the story, but they were always beautiful. The cinematography was spectacular. I was a bit confused by some of the wildly out-of-focus shots, but I still loved every scene.
    I also think that the sound in the movie was great. The engine sounds were fantastic. The purr of the engine was just right. I had a nice full sound. Some car chase scenes will have you plugging your ears, but this film had it done right.
    I can understand why a lot of people found this movie weird or confusing though. Some scenes are just so bizarre like the “release the vipers” scene. There is also the scene with the flamboyant hitchhikers and the strange woman he picked up in the middle of the night.

    I really enjoyed how Kowalski’s character was explained through flashbacks. I feel like throughout the film we got to know him as an overall decent guy, but he’s also a criminal and a drug addict. That’s why at the end I didn’t feel much of a reaction when he drove straight into the bulldozers. I think my reaction was a lot like the spectators’ in that scene, actually. I respected him, and I wanted to see what would happen; but it really was no surprise though. I think I preferred him going out in a blaze of glory like that though. I didn’t want him to get caught, but I also don’t think it was ok for him to get away with it cleanly.

    Anyway, I thought this movie was great overall. I think I’ll be adding it to one of my favourites.

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  18. Jordan ⋅

    This film was strange. Despite possessing quite an impressive production value including well done car action coupled with quality cinematography, I can’t really consider this to be a good film. The story requires a bit of suspension of disbelief and the acting wasn’t the greatest. I felt the wants and overall goals of the man character were shoddy at best, and the random nudity in the latter half, although of course visually pleasing, felt random and out of place. To its defense, it’s action were a commentary on the sexual librations prevalent of the 1970s “hippie” movement.
    The characters were almost caricatures of personalities, not so much representations of real people. For example, the homosexual couple were quite stereotypical, which is a shame because I doubt there were many gay characters represented at all in the films of this time. It’s status as a cult movie isn’t surprising, as I’m sure the odd interactions as well the fast paced driving scenes will appeal to some audiences, although likely niche. I’d say one of the most interesting aspects of the film to me was how it was popular overseas yet but a failure in america. The differences in regional tastes is in the film styles they enjoy is pretty cool.

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  19. satchi ⋅

    I like to categorize the movies I like into two types depending on how much I like them. There’s the type that are so good I drop everything I’m doing because I’m so draw into the story. Then there’s the type that I enjoy and watch fully, hardly missing anything that goes on, but at the same time am doing my own things on the side while I watch. Sadly, I have to say that this film was the first of this semester that fell into the second category. I really did enjoy it, but for some reason it just didn’t really draw me in as much as the other ones (I did manage to get a really lovely sketch in my notes whilst it was playing though.)

    When it first started, I was drawn in. The filming of the chase scenes were really interesting and new and exciting. I especially liked all of the stunts. I’m still impressed that they were all actually done and performed as many of them looked really dangerous.

    The story, while exciting, turned dull at some points because it was rather difficult to follow for the actual plot. Like I said, I really liked the chase scenes, but the actual flow of the plot was a bit to follow.

    I don’t really have much to say except I did think it was a good film that I would watch again for like background things when I feel like lazily watching something whilst doing something else. Also, I was going to say it was a great film until we got to the ending. Then…I didn’t really think it was a great film anymore. It was just too shocking and sudden. Literally the last thing in my notes is “wait what” and that was ultimately the last thing that stuck with me when I left.

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  20. Chaitea ⋅

    Vanishing point is one of the most interesting films we’ve watched in this class.
    The movie from the very beginning showed very good camera angles, starting from the close up of the road which had huge trucks moving around. I was captured by the beauty of the way the film was shot. The first scene of people looking at the vehicles and peering out through house windows made me think the movie was going to be about man vs modern technology like machines and vehicles… similar to some westerns where people in the west are fighting against new innovations like the rail road in Jesse James. However I was surprised when I saw the wait was for a man driving a car.
    I was then surprised at the moment when the white car passed a black car and was replaced by it. It was a very clever way of showing that the film was now moving from the present to the past, to show how it all started.

    The character of kawolski was also very interesting. In the beginning I thought he was quite a shady character but as the movie progressed, we were shown more and more of his past and his character. In the beginning I thought he was dealing with stolen cars but after the police clarified he was actually a driver who delivers cars across states, I realized his character wasn’t so shady after all. Then we were shown glimpses of Kawolski as a good man, through the way he avoided serious harm to other vehicles, and got off the car to check on the man who’s car crashed badly. Later through his past memories we see he used to be a law enforcing cop and protected a woman from getting sexually assaulted and of his past tragedy with a girl who died while surfing ~ all of which seemed to have led to his careless speed driving habits and taking certain drugs.
    Nearing the end of the story I was able to sympathize with the character and was even excited to see him escape the police as the beginning indicated he would but I was shocked with the ending. That was the only part of the story that I disliked. The ending confused me and as I liked Kawolski’s character, I was sad he ended up dead. I guess it was a suitable end for a free spirit, so different from everyone else at the time but still… I couldn’t help but wish for an alternative ending.
    The character of the blind radio jockey was a confusion at first when he was shown in midst of the car chase, but as the story progressed his role became clear and it was very interesting to see his relationship with Kawolski whom he hasn’t even met. The part when he was attacked was very difficult to watch. It made me think of how real racism was in America during that time.

    During the shots of the car speeding and avoiding the police, I was reminded of car racing games such as need for speed. Maybe because I enjoy watching car races, this movie was exhilarating and exciting for me and I enjoyed it until right before the ending.

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  21. Yuki ⋅

    Vanishing point (1971) is very confusing film I have to say. And I could see that that’s why it became a cult film.

    Vanishing Point confused me from the beginning. This film has interesting plot that it begins with an ending. In this scene, the main character, a car delivery driver, Kowalski, and his car suddenly disappear. I couldn’t understand what happened here.

    After the confusing opening, the story goes back to his past. The story is mostly about his driving. I saw a critique that said it was too simple thus boring. I enjoyed the beautiful shots so I didn’t feel it was boring but I agree that it was kind of simple. Kowalski meets several people, have supports from radio and people who like him, and have car chasing. Then the story has an ending one more time. This time, Kowalski doesn’t disappear but crashes into bulldozers with his car and vanish. I got confused again.

    This is just my opinion but I think Kowalski represents American youth in70’s. He suffers from drug, authority, relationship with people, etc. These were what people did at that time. Then he vanishes in the end. This might express the desire of people to be free from the troubles.

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  22. Nemokenza ⋅

    I quite liked vanishing point. I can honestly understand why it’s a cult classic. The story leaves many a plot hole that aren’t necessarily explained. I quite like the main character of Kowalski. I could relate to him being a man of few words and I definitely think that added to the mystic of the film. If he had given us his whole life story and motive for his actions I feel the film would have lost a bit of it’s “edge”.

    One of the stories that I would have liked to have more information about was the bit about Super Soul. I would have liked to know more about his background and from whence he came. He seemed to have a seemingly 6th sense when it came to knowing what Kowalski was up to. I also would have liked to have a bit more of an insight into him being held up to frame Kowalski.

    Over all I liked the movie and I liked how many of the background stories wove their way into the plot without actually leaving their imprint or changing the course of the film.

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  23. I disliked Vanishing point, because I felt like it lacked a plot and dragged too much. The entire time I was thinking the main characters motivation made no sense, and the ending made me understand why he was riding around like a crazy person, because he just didn’t care. However I didn’t really need to sit through two hours of him not caring before he blew himself up. The shots were gorgeous, the landscape and the atmosphere was on point, but I really thought the story boring. If I was really into cars or racing I think it would have been more exciting, but my excitement for that tends to wane after thirty minutes or so. It was well directed, but I felt like the main actor was really unrelatable. Also I felt like some scenes were just in there to be there and didnt really add to the plot (or lack thereof) or help to make the story more interesting.

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  24. Chroma ⋅

    As some who is an automotive enthusiast, this movie definitely kept my attention the whole time. But honestly, I was more enthralled with the Challenger, and the rough ride Kowalski put it through, than I was with anything else going on. The basic idea of the plot wasn’t bad; get a car from colorado to San Francisco in 15 hours. Challenge: Accepted. But it was lacking some substance. (Sorry, but I just couldn’t help the pun on the drug use in the movie.) 
    The film became less of a story about getting a job done and more about the flashbacks of Kowlski’s past life & love, mixed together with a multi-state police chase that goes on for nearly the full duration; I feel that’s what kept the movie from being easy to get into. There were too many elements that didn’t seem to connect until the viewer takes a moment to sit down and think about it.
    “Vanishing Point” was entertaining, and I wouldn’t go so far as to say it wasn’t interesting, but the adrenaline rush lost its effect after a while – if that was even the point of the film.

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  25. Tad ⋅

    I thought vanishing point was actually kind of boring to watch, especially because I’m not a fan of racing and the story was kind of dull. For me it was hard to follow and it seemed to get muddled together. The highlight of the movie were the parts where soul came on the screen. I thought soul’s character was the opposite to kowalski’s. Soul was loud, and would speak his mind, and had a lot of movement compared to kowalski who didn’t really much and was “stationary”(sitting still in his car).

    As for the existentialism aspect of the film, I dont think the director thought that deep to be honest. I personally feel that kowalski was just high when he crashed and the director needed a way to end the film. I don’t think kowalski was sacrificing himself to preserve his freedom and not give the police a chance to take it from him.

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  26. Pingback: Vanishing Point (1971) | timneath

  27. Pingback: Vanishing Point (1971) | Tim Neath - Visual Artist

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