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Screening #8: 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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26 responses to “Screening #8: Vanishing Point (1971)

  1. Snow Fairy ⋅

    Having no idea what this film would be about, I had no preconceptions of how it would go. For me, however, this situation led me to wondering when he’d make it to San Francisco to ACTUALLY start the movie.

    This movie was a let down for me. It was boring and reminded me of those childhood cross-country car rides- “Are we there yet?”. Is the movie starting yet? It was a speed demon driving movie, but, ironically enough, was SLOW.

    On top of that, some of the scenes were confusing. Who was that hitch-hiking woman? How/why did she disappear- was she even real to begin with? What was the ending all about? Some people said Kowalski was insane- was he?

    On top of that, why was this whole movie based around an idea that a man speeding in the desert will be chased to the point the police will make a truck-blockade to essentially kill him? That is pretty unrealistic, in my opinion.

    I would like to comment, however, on the lengths the film industry had evolved-from Hayes Code to nude women riding bikes. It’s a reflection of how much American society has evolved

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    • Endless Dusk ⋅

      Hi Snowfairy,
      I think, that since this film is based on existentialism (which holds that life is absurd and has no meaning except for what you yourself assigns to it) I think the seemingly random events is a statement about the randomness and instability of life itself.

      And the hitchhiking woman was some sort of harbinger of death (some say the angel of death, or just a foreshadowing of Kowalski’s death).

      And as for the truck blockade, I think it was symbolic of the constraints that authority and society places on the individual (by assigning worth and labels on people), and how Kowalski rejected it. Ideally, the blockade would have made most people stop, but that would mean giving in to authority, which would mean that Kowalski would both literally and figuratively be constrained and locked away. So, Kowalski chose instead to die and become someone who never let society define him. By dying rather than giving in, he is also showing his rejection of life, the world, and all the absurdity associated with it.

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  2. sumdood ⋅

    Cars, cops, and female nudity describe this film well. So basically, the entire film is one huge chase scene. I would’ve never thought of that. Usually, movies contain a few chase scenes but this entire movie is one. Sure there are little breaks in between, but Kowalski, our hero, is still on the run. With the opening of the movie, you’re not sure what exactly is going on. I got the vibe that with the bulldozers rolling through the countryside that it was one of those “government wants to modernize the countryside but the locals won’t have that” sort of theme. Was completely off, but the fact that you couldn’t tell exactly what the movie was about at the beginning can be good or bad.

    What I felt a bit lacking about this movie is explanation of events. So… Kowalski is a “car delivery man” aided by a radio DJ who happens to have access to police radio frequencies? Who is he delivering to? Why does he drive the way he does? Maybe there are a few hints here and there, but nothing is really explained in depth and we’re kind of just thrown little tidbits of information. I didn’t really get the kind of sudden attack on the radio station. There are a lot of questions not answered.

    So yeah, also, what was with those random scenes of flashbacks with nude girls? I guess we’re trying to get a look at a bit of his past life but it’s so randomly inserted and doesn’t really attribute anything to the film. It’s like the director thought “let’s put boobs in here so people will want to watch it”. Yeah, maybe if you’re a 13 year old. Let’s not even get started on the totally nude biker girl.

    Now then, what I felt from this movie is that’s it’s almost a huge advertisement for a Dodge Charger just like how Michael Bay’s Transformers was like a huge advertisement for the Chevrolet Camaro. All about that product placement. I wouldn’t be surprised if Charger sales went up after this movie came out. There’s lots… and lots… and lots of car/driving shots, but what can you expect from a movie about a car chase. The shots emphasized the aggressiveness and power of the Dodge Charger; it being one of the main points after all.

    With the movie practically being one giant action scene, there was a few injections of humor into the film which I think worked well. (Nod towards the two “hippie queer” dudes).

    That ending though… Everyone talked about how Kowalski was the last free soul or something, speeding away to be free. Kind of a “live to ride and ride to live” sort of thing. Well, I guess he gained the ultimate freedom upon dying. After all, what does he have left? He’s an outcast, was never really good at anything he did, and has had other tragic events happen along as a possible drug addiction. Guess he finally accepted everything and reached that “vanishing point”.

    Overall, the movie was pretty cool. Fast cars, roaring engines, and big wide shots of dusty, barren America.

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  3. Endless Dusk ⋅

    Living in the Blockbuster Era, we are used to determining the worth of movies solely on entertainment value. We are used to having the plot be straightforward, and roads are just roads and bulldozers are just bulldozers and have no other significant meaning. We are used to having everything explained and spoon fed to us, and we aren’t supposed to have any questions. After all, if we are supposed to be entertained, we aren’t supposed to think, right?

    Then there are, of course, films that are not necessarily meant for entertainment, but exist make a statement. And naturally, those movies aren’t very popular. So it was no surprise to me that I might be one of the only students that actually enjoyed this film. I am the kind of person that always looks for meaning and purpose in art, and I am not usually impressed by pop art and movies that appeal to the masses as a form of escapism and a mere way to pass the time. And it’s just a little disappointing to me that others aren’t the same way, but I understand. I just think if you only seek nothing else but entertainment in art and film, you will miss out on a lot.

    And it is fitting, since that is those conventions that this film is against. In this class, we are not required to enjoy the film, but we ARE required to keep an open mind to its message, and to appreciate it for what it is: a statement. And since the message is a bit uncomfortable, and the character cold and unattached, I can see why it can be difficult to connect to this film, especially when the main theme is about disconnection itself.

    It’s really important to understand existentialism in order to really “get” this film. The car chase isn’t really a car chase. I mean, of course it’s a car chase, but it represents the struggle between the individual and society. Society tries to define you and take away who you really are. Society puts labels on you, and puts you into categories. The world is bizarre. Authority can track you, there are random snake people and sometimes you see naked chicks on dirt bikes riding out of nowhere. And so, since we live in an absurd world which we can’t always make sense of, I think we should approach “Vanishing Point” with all this in mind.

    In the opening sequence, we see Kowalski rushing on the wide, open road. The authorities have just blocked the road with bulldozers. Kowalski makes a sharp turn in defiance of the blockade and goes his own direction. We see the same exact scene at the end, but this time Kowalski rushes in, in an act of self-immolation and his rejection of the world and life itself.
    So, why did we see the same scenario at the beginning and the end, but with different outcomes? Actually, the outcomes are symbolically the same.

    When Kowalski turns around from the bulldozer blockade the first time, it is the symbolic act of denouncing society and authority. He is symbolically turning away from the bulldozers. Bulldozers represent civilization. They are used in breaking and turning the earth, and for both building and destroying things. So, in turning away from the bulldozers, Kowalski is symbolically and literally defying the boundaries the police set for him. He then spends the remainder of his life fleeing from authority who seeks to arrest him. This symbolizes how society tries to constrain the individual. Kowalski doesn’t connect to anyone. He answers to nobody except himself.

    And he then defies authority again when we see the same scene at the end. Everyone seems to show up for the show. There is a sort of 70s home video feel with B-roll of the neighborhood kids and dudes in bellbottoms. They all even brought their dogs. It’s really a portrait of suburban America.
    But, in the end, Kowalski gives everyone an “F-You.” He rejects them all- suburban America, the two gay guys, Supersoul, the blind DJ who guides him, and the naked chick on the bike and the snake guy living off the desert. Instead of surrendering to authority and the constraints of society, he drives right into the blockade and dies.

    Not only is his death his rejection of the world, but it shows how everyone lives their lives. We are always running. Running away from something or running after something. We are always competing against each other, accepting each other, rejecting each other, but at the end we all end up the same.

    Some people pointed out that some events seemed illogical and random. That is because one of the central tenets of existentialism is absurdity. Life is absurd, everything is absurd, and there exists no meaning in life except for what you give it yourself. And you should define it yourself, or else others will define it for you. You can die at any point at any time, and you can be faced with a tragic or unexplainable event with no warning. Life is unstable.

    It is interesting that everyone Kowalksi encounters is an outsider. Yet, he cannot identify with any of them. He is in a class all on his own. He cannot even fit in with any of the counterculture.

    It is interesting how the film paints a picture of American culture, too. The American car is a powerful symbol, I think. It represents power, adventure, as well as American industry. There was a lot of pride in American cars back then. They were built to last a very long time and made for long road trips and were sturdy.

    We also see touches of racial tension and homophobia (words like “niggar” and “faggot” were flung about, which we rarely see modern films these days). Then there was the attack on the radio station, led by an undercover cop (or was it just an off-duty cop?) who beat up Supersoul, which I kind of think had an element of racism and social warfare to it.

    Also, there is the moment when it was questioned as to why Supersoul’s voice was questioned. We don’t know whether he was threatened to lead Kowalski into a trap, or if it was a different guy talking through the radio. I think it’s one of those things we aren’t supposed to know. If we were in Kowalski’s point of view, we wouldn’t have known either. All we would have known is that, for some reason, his voice couldn’t be trusted. Leaving it open ended is also a statement on paranoia about authority. That there are others who have power over us that seek to deceive us, but we don’t know exactly what they are doing…

    So, New American Cinema seems to be the quirky lovechild of westerns and French New Wave, the latter which is heavily influenced by existentialism. Kowalski has a lot in common with the character Meursault from the novel “The Stranger,” by Camus, who was an existential writer. Meursault was also a character who defied convention and chose to die rather than give in to what others expect of him. This is one of the central themes of existentialism. There is a wariness of society. As I said towards the beginning of my essay, society labels you and puts you into categories. Society defines you, and strips you of how you define yourself. That is what Kowalski was running from all this time.

    Another character Kowalski shares similarities with: Spike Spiegel from Cowboy Bebop. Seriously, goggle Spike Spiegel and you can see the resemblance. I don’t think it’s just a coincidence. Both characters have similar attitudes, similar backgrounds, and a similar philosophy toward life.

    Before I end this, I just wanted to comment on the amazing cinematography… You know, I actually don’t think this is the first time I have seen this film, but I didn’t realize it until that ending scene. My parents actually loved old movies, as well as “car movies,” so I probably have seen this before. Back then, I didn’t pay much attention, but now I know better. So I can see where my love of film had begun.

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  4. emicanna ⋅

    Extremely long shots, so many different angles, heavy used realism, combination of unity and almost illusion-like disunity, this film was completely chaos to me. On top of that, even though I watched until the very last end, I still could not understand what was the film about. Although the plot was mess, I did understand how the director wanted to portrays and tell the audience what is America like. Yet, the core meaning of this film was still not clear to me.

    I personally liked the settings and camera works of this film. The photography-wise, it was very beautiful and well developed. For instance, the lighting was always great. I assume that at that time the technology was definitely not like current level, so It must be hard to get a shot from so many places and also angles. I can imagine that it must take long time to complete this film. On top of that, the main object was moving car which means camera also has to move along with it. I could understand the director’s intention on this camera work in order to express the dynamic action of Dodge Challenger. Additionally, on each specific points, the director uses realism, especially the scenes where the audience would emotionally sympathise. For example, a lot of ambient sounds, showing the mirage from the road of desert, very aggressive fighting and lots of blood was huge impact.

    However, at the same time there were so many debatable and irrational scenes(well, in the filed of art, people should not really define what is rational though) which I quite did not understand. It actually kept making me confused, while I was watching. For instance, american christianity in the desert, naked hippy girl, several random flashbacks and so forth. As we discussed in the class, I understand the film is unlike the films that we have been watched, and not really mainstream type of hollywood movie. Yet I still claim that this entire film was absolutely lack of explanation which makes most of people confused, and even dislike this movie. At the sometime I was disappointed in the director because he could have more organized the plot better, then the audience could understand more and make sense more.

    After all, the footage and the theme of this film was fantastic, and I was even amazed how the director delivers and shows the American culture throughout the car chase film.

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  5. Gleb Torubarov ⋅

    Having in my viewed list such pictures like Easy Rider, Road Knight, French Connection, Thelma & Louise, and few other road movies, I have never seen Vanishing Point before the American Film class. What I saw amazed me in many ways: Vanishing Point is another example of the best (in my opinion) age of Hollywood – the autor’s age. It is hard to believe that !!!19!!! people could pack the whole decade in 100 minutes!

    At the beginning, I was very tricked It thought, as the poster was telling me “this is an ultimate ride movie”, which automatically made me expect non-stop feverish action, from the beginning to the end. When I find out this movie is not what I expected, I felt annoyed, but at the end of the movie I was totally thankful for the experience Vanishing Point gave me. The poster was right about one thing for sure – ultimate, because I believe there are very few pictures in cinema history like Vanishing Point.

    The crew of 19 people could actually shoot amazingly looking picture, probably it is to the director of photography. Anyway, the star of this movie, of course, is Kowalski: we do not really know anything about him, but the flashbacks throughout the movie show us his path in various layers of the society – army, police, love… Through them we know that this person did not fit to almost anything, and he did not have any happy end in his life. Kowalski keeps riding, the black DJ prophet keeps fortunetelling, and the society is gathering bit by bit to see the fall of the last free spirit, which at the end killed my hope in society.

    For me, the desert in this picture is the purgatory, where fellow outcasts, and rejected of the society cross their ways with the main character. Vanishing Point itself is something that we can see moving from one side of horizon, and disappearing on the other; this phenomenon is like life – it takes long time, but it feels like a second. For many people, their long life feels like a second, and in this way around they see the world; the world of good, bad, angry, virtue, evil, but anyway – OTHER (strangers) people. This world goes fast for Kowalski, just as his life, and what is at the end (or, in film, what does he chase?) does not matter…Vanishing Point is a very important American cinema, because Vanishing Point is Kowalski, he is a vanishing spirit of freedom, which this country has lost. At the end he finally gains his freedom, because he has nothing to lose, and for him it is the only way to revelation aka nirvana.

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  6. bluebird of happiness ⋅

    I like the background music in this movie. Director opens up the movie with the light classic guitar. It is peace and calm, just like countryside music. When I saw this movie, I thought this might be the story about lovely countryside. However, after I finished watching this movie, I felt this movie is basically about car chasing. I know there is more than car chasing in the film, but the car chasing take place about 80 % of the entire movie. But, through this movie, through car chasing, we know America is such a big and wild country that enable car to chase each other.
    To talk further about the background music in this film, there is no big changing of the background music. It is always so calm. Can this be interpreted as the main character’s mental state? No matter what happen, the background music is always following with light guitar.
    This film is also kind of out of logic, because audiences are hard to connect to why and what main character is escaping for. We all can tell the main character in the film has his own way to live, but he chooses to die, to escape from the society.
    Another scene also catches my eyes. I know it is a 70s film, so there is a big gap between the film we saw earlier in the class. There is no African American in the film we watched earlier in this course; however, in “Vanishing Point”, there are at least two African American in the film play an important role.

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  7. Mikako ⋅

    Usually I do not like car chase scenes in action movies because its  camerawork makes me feel dizzy. But I liked Vanishing Point because the story and camerawork are very simple. Especially police chase is not too shaky but thrilling. Also, since this film was filmed on location, every chasing scene is real and fantastic. When I saw Kowalski’s past scene which he was an auto racer, I thought it was actual video taking from actual auto racing. Also, I like the scene shooting from the helicopter. Using helicopter as not only police chase but also shooting tool is good.  

    However, because I could not clearly understand the constructions at the beginning, I could not get into the story smoothly. Kowalski’s flashback going back and forth made me so confused. If I knew the plot summary before watching the film, I could see it without confusing, I think. 

    The ending was really shocking. I think most people did not expect the ending. Although I could not understand why Kowalski chose to not stop and people watching him did not stop him. Even after the explosion, nobody surprised or showed shocking expressions. It seemed like everyone knows and accepts Kowalski’s choice. It was really shocking again, however, after watching film until the end, I felt like I understood the reason why Kowalsi made a bet and kept going from Colorado.         
     

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  8. Anna Duck ⋅

    Vanishing Point seemed to really be pushing its symbolism. I can respect a film that gives deeper meaning to its story and allows the audience to figure it out on their own, but Vanishing Point came off as pushing deep meanings and representation of society without real purpose.
    I was mostly confused by the black car. In the beginning it made several appearances. First when the director points it out, still framing Kowalski’s white car passing it and the black car disappearing, then several other times running Kowalski off the road. But I don’t remember seeing it at all in the second half of the movie. I might have just missed it, but to me it was dropped from the story. At first I thought the trouble it caused our protagonist was meant to symbolize his recklessness, but if that’s the case then where did the car go? He had the same level of recklessness thought the movie and only moved on from recklessness to suicide at the end, so the car should have been there up until that point. The same can be said if it was meant to symbolize his pending death, or bad luck. There was no trigger for dropping the black car, so we can only assume what its purpose was.
    It seemed like a false metaphor, and I think that sums up my experience with the film. It was trying to be edgy and metaphorical but in the end it had no real meaning. Just a facade of complex symbolism. Surviving mostly on sex and chase scenes, Vanishing Point is another testosterone packed dude movie pretending to be something more than it is.

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  9. TUYN ⋅

    While watching the film, I realized that this film used flashbacks to help audience understand what kind of person main character was and its story or idea. And, there was no narration. All we saw was a man driving a car so fast escaping from the cops most of the time. Personally, I wanted more conversation so that I didn’t get tired of watching. But, people who love car or driving a car may love the film. The car, extremely long straight road, nudity, caps, and car chasing emphasize this film.

    I wonder if the main character was really a good man or not because we saw that he was a police and what he did was great, He helped woman from coworker. And also, he helped old man to bring him to his friend, and helped two guys whose car was out of gas even though he was under escape. What he was doing in the film was totally illegal though.
    The ending was kind of sad, but his death was probably what he actually wanted because of his sad memory he wanted to forget. By driving a car so fast, he didn’t have to anything negative. And, his death is the vanishing point of this film.

    Over all, I didn’t like this kind of film. Probably, this film is the first film I have watched that the main character didn’t talk much. I am not a film person, so I wasn’t able to get a good point of this film, but for film people, they may know the greatness of this film.

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  10. Chloe ⋅

    To be honest, I was so bored in the beginning of this film because it was just a car chase scene with unclear plot, and also I got sick of hearing those loud sound car chase.
    Since it had a few spoken dialogues, it was kind of hard for me to understand what this film is about. I did not even get why Kowaiski ride a car and head down the road at breakneck speed.
    However, while I kept watching, I become more interested in this film. As we discussed in the class, the camera movement at this time is so great. I know there is a few blank between this film and the film we watched before, but it’s obvious that they had developed movie technology much further. Someone said that they used a helicopter to shoot a car chase and I was amazed about it.
    One more thing I was fascinated by camera movement was absolutely the scene of car chase on the load. Since the car goes fast, the camera also has to move fast along with the car. I think these car chase scene had a tremendous impact in terms of having great and dynamic shoot.
    I also amazed that this film used a flashback technique. Kowaiski moves backward and forward between the past and the present, so the film has captions, which mentions the present location and time. I like watching a flashback scene and this is a new type of movie technique I thought.
    Finally, I want to say about the last scene where Kowaiski crashed. I first didn’t understand why he crash in the end, but when I deeply think about the theme of this film, I think that Kowaiski cannot stop the car because if he is caught, that means he is giving up. Crashing his car represents his dream and “vanishing point” I think.

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  11. simoastronaut ⋅

    Personally I thought Vanishing Point was a really interesting interesting film. Generally, I’m not really fond of mainstream films because they usually just provide a temporary entertainment that vanishes as soon as the movie ends. Vanish Point was different in the sense that once you finish watching the film, the mental focus on it doesn’t end as the film ends. For me, it was when it all started as the it ended. I began to question what were the deeper layers of the film and try to figure out the symbolism provided by the film. I asked some classmates on what they thought about the film but most people just thought it was awful and didn’t wanted to discuss about it. The puzzling feeling inside me was getting stronger so I needed answers. That’s the time when I decided to consult with the almighty internet. I read people reviews and discussions on forums. It was interesting to see people reaction and thoughts on it. My theory was that Kowalski represented freedom and not a criminal because he’s presented that way from the radioman. The radioman was romanticizing his actions, as if he was doing a great deed for humanity. I thought this was the most interesting part of the movie. Not because of what Kowalski was doing in the first place, but how the radioman interprets it, which ultimately is the message from the author to the audience. The philosophy behind the movie deals with existentialism, which was the first time I hear about it. Most people hated the ending but I think that it expresses the concept of existentialism at its fullest; the full control on the decision of being dead or alive.

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  12. Maddie

    During our class on Friday there were two main observations that I found interesting and would like to further comment on. The first was that “Vanishing Point” had the typical elements of an Americana film, but went also went against the Hollywood-type structure in many ways. The other was that Kowalski was a part of neither the mainstream society nor the marginalized society.
    There are so many aspects on the topic of “Vanishing Point”‘s American-ness. The cinematography was wonderful and there were so many awesome wideshots of desolate desert. Motorcycles, fast cars, hot naked hippie chicks- what more could explain America at that time better??? Although there are these elements which seem exaggerated, the ideal America that many foreigners have in their mind, the film did not deny the dark side of America and its portrayal. Kowalski was traced with absurd technology, reminiscent of “Big Brother”-like means. There was drugs, there were policemen who abused their power and others who were essentially innocent. The radio DJ used his position for freedom of speech- a critical element of America and the freedom each of us are granted- and yet he was beat up, forced to comply with the cops and fool Kowalski.
    The next point I come to harks upon America’s betrayal in the film, and also brings me to my next point- the Kowalski did not fit anywhere in society. I thought it was interesting that those people who were in the mainstream society were the ones who were the “voyeurs” – they watched as Kowalski crashed at the end, and they watched as the DJ and is crew were beat up. Those who were on the margins were literally placed there. They inhabited the desert and lived their solitary lives there. Kowalski is seen mostly in the desert, but in reality, he was only passing through the entire time. He was constantly on the move, but he found help from these outsiders. This may, for some, mean that he, too, was an outsider, but when I thought about it, he never really became one of them. He left each and every one of them- helping them as much as he could and taking whatever they offered- that is it. He found a connection with them, but in the end, knew that he could never stay in the desert.
    The ending of this movie was completely unique. It’s been done before, yes, but there has always been this alluding to his eventual death or downfall. Kowalski does not reach either of these ends. He “dies”, but not really. He wins and he finds his freedom, and I love how it was portrayed in such simple ways by the director. I think any literal interpretation of this film is wasted on the viewer. I remember someone in class kept referring to Kowalski and when we start to see that he’s “not right” in the film. I completely hate that interpretation, to be blunt, because he seemed to be the most aware character in the story. I think the best part of this film is that it’s so arguable, but in the end, it really only matters what you think of it. Kowalski had these earthly-attributes, these flaws that you learn of – like once being a cop then quitting, like losing his girlfriend and never recovering- but he was really this other-worldly being. He understood and he listened, then did what he felt had to be done- I think that’s what most of us aim for in life!! It sounds a bit silly, but I think it’s true.

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  13. Rara ⋅

    Vanishing Point was not very interesting to me and I got confused with plot. For example, as someone mentioned it in class, the plot was not logical and had many scenes did not really make sense for me. I did not understand what the director wanted to show through this movie sine the plot did not really have any massage to audiences. For instance, what makes him to drive fast was not clear. It just begins because of the bar owner; however, even thought the price chased him, he just tried to go really fast. I thought he was driving not only because he took a bet but he was thinking other stuff as well. But I could not really get what that was.
    Maybe because I do not usually watch car movie nor enjoy car action or any action films, I even got bored during watching it. So, overall, I felt like I was just watching the car driving in the States for an entire movie, and after watching, the only thing in my head was just the car chasing and also the last scene that the car clashed and Kowalski died. Of course, it was good that there were also some scenes about the Kowalski’s past; however, I think that it did not have important meaning. I just got the idea of the Kowalski’s character fro from the flashbacks of his past.
    In addition, the ending confused me a little bit. I did not understand why Kowalski killed himself by the car clash and even more than that I got confused why he smiled. Through our discussion in class, I could understand a bit that he smiled because the death means nothing to him. But when I was watching this film, I did not understand it.
    For the cinematography, I think it was quite good. The car chasing scenes were enjoyable because it was well filmed. I thought the camera quality and techniques definitely improved compared to the previous films we watched in class. The camera angle was good. Also I could see the beautiful scene of America. I liked the shot which has nice sky, car and the him. In addition, I enjoyed watching the car action scenes without the CGI or any modern technology because in modern movie people use the modern technologies too much so it lacks reality.
    I think this movie was different than the most of Hollywood movies that intended to create for everyone to enjoy it.
    Also I watched it without any knowledge of the background or the time of America, so I knew it I could understand it and enjoyed it more.

    It was just for me but because I do not really have idea about American geography, I wondered how fast does Kowalski need to drive to make it within 15 hours. I know it is a long way and he really has to drive fast, but I was just thinking when I was watching this film because it never said how km/miles it was.

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  14. minnie ⋅

    I was so impressed by the film, Vanishing Point, because the film is better than last film. The developments we could see in the film are the scenes of a running car from above and the scenes of flashbacks. The scenes of a running car were very amazing. If I have to say a critique of the scenes, the differences of color and landscapes, we can see the different scenes from same cuts. I could figure out some scenes which the editors put the different scenes together. Still, the technique of this film is really good. In this film, the main character always flashbacks what happened to him and the people around him in the past. For example, during he was driving the car and running from police pursuit, he remembers the time when he was a car racer. Using a flashback technique is really difficult because it can help or give the audiences confusion. One of my classmates pointed out that we as the recent audiences tend to require the logical order in the film. Many people think that the film should be logical and easy to follow. In fact, this film makes me feel frustrated because I could not figure out the main theme of this film. Until one of my classmates clarified the theme, I could not get the theme. Many films give the great theme to the audience, but in this film’s case, we have to imagine what the director wants to tell the audiences. The ending of this film was unexpected because the main character crashed to the bulldozers. Between the bulldozers, the main character sees the light as his vanishing point, so he crash into the light. I thought that was not the ending I expected, but somehow, I felt sorry for the main character. He just missed his girl and kept driving like a mighty car racer, but in my thought, he was so happy about running and crashing into the vanishing point. The audiences do not know that the main character died or critically hurt, but he made his theme of his life.

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  15. momo ⋅

    I liked the movie, Vanishing Point. When I watched the beginning of the scene, I wondered what this movie is about because the scene includes only one man driving a car at high speed. I first thought this film is like the Fast and Furious which is one of the popular car action movies. But soon I realized that Kowalski, the main character, is not running away from the police but heading to somewhere. He actually is trying to deliver a car from Denver to San Francisco in less than a day. In the story, there are some of flashback scenes, and it tells the audience the history of Kowalski. The flashbacks and expositions reveal that he was a car race driver and cop, and also why he is driving a car so fast. Kowalski does not his mind so that these scenes are effectively used as like a narration. In the story, he is pretty much individual person but the encounters with people made me think that he has sorrow and warm heart too.

    The reason why I liked this movie is that the entire scenes of highway reminded me of old memories. Before I came back to Japan, I have lived in Nevada and California. There, I often drive a car in probably a same highway from the movies, and it made me want to drive a car badly. Well I think the Nevada desert was the great location for this movie. To me, this is really American movie because of this location. Comparing to other car action movies, the mood of this movie is silent and even seems peaceful. For instance, there are many scenes that the police car chasing Kowalski, but in these scenes, the car sound is only strengthen. I think that the director uses this technique consciously in order to put emphasize on car. One thing I realized was that the car scenes was filed by a steady camera so that it was not shaken. this is why I liked car race scenes in this film because i felt like i was driving a car as well. I am not sure that this film somehow is aimed to promote the car, Dodge Challenger, but to me the car looks so cool. Even though there are many car race scenes, only Dodge Challenger was not broken and high speed.

    Also, characters whom Kowalski met on the road were very unique. Super soul, a blind, black disc jockey, is a really important character in the story. I think that he encourages Kowalski and treat him with gentle patients. Overall, I think it is difficult for audience to see what the film is about but that is a great point of this movie. The music is also great and it makes the mood of the film.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Ian Ulman ⋅

    This film was so different than everything we’ve seen before. We’re used to stories that have a clear tale to tell, and a clear message. In this one, it was clear that even the characters didn’t really know what was going on.

    I found the existential message a little lacking. It’s possible that you can go on and on about how Kowlaski died for the sake of his freedom, that he always had to be in control of his own life, but at the end of the day, he’s still dead. What’s worse, his death didn’t really achieve much. He didn’t give some grand speech and die a martyr, convincing lots of other people to throw off the establishment and live freely. He just crashed into a bulldozer and left everyone else scratching their heads.

    One thing that I did like a lot was the use of music. The way songs constantly cut it with appropriate lyrics, from the beginning where they said something about having a long way to go, to the end where it talked about his final release. The theme of the radio and receiving music and news that Kowlaski couldn’t really respond to showed up a lot, and I thought it was interesting.

    Unrelated to the rest of the blog post, this movie kept making me think of Smokey and the Bandit, although that movie was about as different as two police-chase movies can be.

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  17. lala ⋅

    At the beginning of the film, “Vanishing Point,” I could not recognize what is going on. Also, it takes time to understand who Kowalski is because he was just driving a car at the first part of this film. This film has not so much dialogues compared to other films, so this film does not give much information about Kowalski at first. It is one of the reasons why it was difficult to understand about Kowalski and the story itself. However, these elements makes me feel wonder about this film, and I could not take my eyes off from the screen. The curiosity about this film stirs up my interest.
    As the story goes on, the scene sometimes goes back to the past. For example, while Kowalski was driving a car, the scene changes to the auto race in the past. This auto race scene indicates the Kowalski’s background as a professional driver, and it gives the audience the information about his characteristics. This technique makes this film more complicated, and the audience may become more interested in this film.
    In addition, most scenes in this film are that the car driven by Kowalski that is chased by police. I thought that it is uncommon that most scenes is composed of the scene of car chase. I like the scene of car chasing because it was so dynamic and powerful.

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  18. Beyonslay

    The film “Vanishing Point” was an incredibly innovative film.

    Let’s just dive right in. I thought the narrative structure was fascinating. Instead of the traditional plot, there was a plot that transcended the boundaries of the standard Hollywood narrative and made an intentional statement. I thought that this narrative style really highlighted the way in which Americans consume film by creating a film with an abundance of American idolatry like fast cars, car chases, nude blonde women, soul music, and hyper-masculine characters. However, this film is uniquely un-American in that it defies the traditional narrative. I believe that this had to be intentional on the part of the director, and that by doing so, he decidedly put forth the idea that a film can be just as American and unique if it is original.

    One thing that I liked, and also disliked, was the portrayal of minority groups in the film. I liked the films honesty about the state of race relations in America. The policeman and other white people breaking into the radio station was daring in that it tackled some very important issues in contemporary America. Also, the inclusion of LGBT people in the film was very progressive. However, I found that the character “Super Soul”, while very positive and very intelligent and well-intentioned, was ultimately another example of the American film industry using the “Magical Negro” trope. This character is usually a black man who is seemingly omniscient or who exists on a higher spiritual, intellectual, or emotional plane, and functions only to guide the white male protagonist. This character is used in countless other films, and further adds to mysticism of the black male and separate him from the white lead. Also, the LGBT people in the film, although being present, were ultimately the brunt of a joke on the effeminate nature of gay men, and making them irrational bandits was completely unnecessary to the narrative.

    I found the music to be really great. I really liked how they incorporated uniquely American music. They included blues, rock and roll, and other genres of music that are unique to the United States and helped to add a nostalgic feel to the film.

    I also thought the portrayal of women was very interesting. While these women, as people, were very empowered and owned their womanhood, I couldn’t help but think their nudity and status in the film existed to service the male gaze. They were also all blonde, which I think is part of the entertainment industry’s idolatry of blonde, blue-eyed women, and I found it to be very revealing about the standard of beauty in America. The fact that there were no women of color or even brunette women in the film as sexual object, seems to affirm my opinion on this.

    However, I think that this film was, in fact, revolutionary in its narrative structure and inclusion of minority groups, and while I have to reconcile that this film will forever be stuck in time, I wish it had been even more progressive.

    But I found it entertaining.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. mewpudding101 ⋅

    I have to say, I was extremely confused by the first third or so of this film. After all, it didn’t feel like there was a solid plot going. It honestly felt like a guy going through his normal life after seeing the first scene, which is not explained to us at all. That was when I realized: The protagonist didn’t have anything big at stake to get the car to the client. He wasn’t saving a hostage or rushing to stop a nuclear bomb. He was just rushing to rush. This motive becomes more emotional when we realize he is trying to live with the pain of losing his girlfriend, who passed away in a tragic surfing accident. However, although he tries to run away by driving, he constantly finds women who look like her.
    By the middle of the film, I realized the genre of this film: Buddy flick. No, Kowolski’s buddy wasn’t in the car with him, but they were emotionally linked. Even though they hadn’t ever met before, they had a bond of trust, and even telepathy! The radio DJ constantly talked to Kowolski through the radio to help him, and although he sometimes shrugged him off, he constantly listened to the DJ’s radio station as he drove. It’s kind of like a long-distance buddy flick.
    Finally, the ending. I wasn’t extremely surprised, as something was off and otherworldly about Kowolski from the beginning. He seemed to be a constant traveler, not one for returning to human society. Much like the cowboy in the western, he is forced to continue wandering away from society, except Kowolski wanders in death.
    I think this was an interesting movie, as it breaks many of the standards for films: Climax, motivation, and possibly plot. It was an interesting experience, but not one I’d be interested in seeing again. Just experiencing it once was enough for me to go on Kowolski’s crazy ride.

    Like

  20. Maxine ⋅

    This movie has everything about America in one film. Cars, a mysterious man, justice, authority, women, drugs, the west, racism, music and more. I felt like the movie was made for your all around typical American manly man. The whole movie takes place while he is in a car being chased by the police in the desert. I honestly thought the car chase would only last maybe 15-20 minutes later but after an hour I realized that he ain’t really going to leave his car.

    The main character, Kowlaski is kind of the silent hero, or your modern cowboy. He reminded me a lot of the Ryan Gosling’s character in “Drive”. Both feature the tough man doing illegal things while still having a secret soft heart while living life was guilt. I think that is why this movie as well as “Drive” has a cult following. It shows the hidden emotions of what many people would consider a “badass”.

    The women to me is the biggest factor that shows that this movie was made for male viewers. All were blonde, or almost blonde and seen as sexual objects. I have no problem with nudity, however if it is there for “fan-service” than count me out. I think shows like, Game of Thrones who have at least one naked lady per episode or the occasional nude male handled nudity more efficiently where it just makes sense.

    Super Soul reminded me of the blind prophet in Oedipus the king. He is blind yet he can “see” more than the other visual characters. He is all knowing. I was also wondering how he was able to tract Kowlaski. Is this a super natural film? there was also that “shadow” car that he passed that was supposed to be him. Maybe that vanishing point between the two construction vehicles leads to a parallel universe and that is how Super Soul can see Kowlaski and how that Black car passed him. Is that black car him after he passed the parallel universe? Just a fun thought I guess.

    Just a side note, as someone who grew up in Arizona, that desert looks very clean. Its weird not seeing plastic bags and beer cans on the side of the road or caught on a cactus. I could also see that filming took place in the summer (July-August) since I noticed the monsoon clouds.

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  21. cool cool cool ⋅

    Not gonna lie, the majority of my time spent watching this film was me questioning whether we were ever going to get anything resembling a real plot. I like my car chase scenes, but too much and my attention starts to drift, and this was a movie that was start to end CAR CHASE. Even worse, it was car chase with none of the nail-biting suspense that comes with really caring about your protagonist and rooting for him to win in the end. In fact as the movie progressed I was wondering to myself why Kowolski was such a hero to the people that were lining the roads to try to get a glimpse of him and throwing him in headlines and touting him as some kind of celebrity. In reality I’m like, this guy is putting a lot of peoples’ lives in danger with the way he’s driving and I totally understand why there would be a priority placed on arresting him, especially after he blew off all the previous attempts and was the underlying force in a bunch of the crashes and wrecks that happened in attempts to stop him. The film does kind of go out of its way to show us that the cops are the bad guys in this particular interpretation that that Kowolski is actually a pretty decent dude. The numerous flashbacks peppered throughout the film give us a glimpse into his own cop past, particularly with the scene where he “betrays his own” by stopping his cop partner from molesting a girl as a way of getting information out of her. That was probably the end of his cop career right there, and it doesn’t put the law force in any kind of good light in terms of this film. Same goes for the scene where the blind radio talk host gets viciously beaten in a joint hate crime/threatening maneuver to force him to be complicit in luring Kowolski into a trap (at least that was my interpretation of the resulting scene) and one of those that was involved was a cop. Kowolski, on the other hand, was the kind of guy who would stop and check on you after you flip your car even though you were being a jerk and trying to egg him into racing. The kind of guy to give the stranger a ride and pick up the gay hitchhiker’s who’s car has broken down even though he’s kinda in the middle of a chase here. So yeah, all this helps us want to root for Kowolski. But as far as the people who are his fans, I guess it’s mostly an “anti establishment, root for the underdog” kind of thing.

    Our class conversation helped me understand more about what this film was trying to do, I think. The idea of it being a truly “American” film: stuffed full of stereotypically American imagery (sex, drugs, and rock and roll in the form of naked ladies on motorcycles, speed, and a blind radio announcer offering a soundtrack for the road) as well as the landscape, the car, the “us against the Man” kind of theme. It had it all. It also had a weird other-worldly kind of aspect to it. The many characters that Kowolski encounters throughout his journey feel almost like prophets meant to help him on his way. There was Super Soul, the aforementioned blind radio host, for one. He was almost godly, or like a guardian angel who made it his duty to follow the story of Kowolski, guide him where he could, and also spread the word. He was probably the most charismatic character- boisterous and full of life in comparison to Kowolski’s straight-faced stoicism. But there was a comradery built between them by the end of the film that was all more noticeable for the fact that the two never met and technically never should have been able to communicate. (I’m still not sure if that scene where Kowolski talks back to the radio and Super Soul answers him was supposed to be an example of an actual supernatural moment or if it was just meant to imply a connecting of minds, with Super Soul predicting the kind of question Kowolski might ask and their dialogue just ~happening to sink up.) There was also the Snake Catching Stranger that appeared just in the knick of time to save Kowolski from his brush with the rattler and lead him out of the desert. (Another aside: that was maybe the most upsetting part of the entire movie for me- the scene where this sweet old guy had worked so hard to capture all these dangerous rattlers and the extremist Christian leader just casually tossed all his hard back in his face, basically. This was an interesting scene because I feel like it was one of the only ones that wasn’t directly connected to Kowolski in some way. Yes, he was the one who had given the man the ride there, but by the time we’re seeing the Christian and the Snake Catcher have their discussion, Kowolski had already moved on. So there has to be some kind of significance to this moment. Perhaps it was just the idea of the larger force, the “Man” just stomping on the little guy again. But either way, I really felt for the snake catcher here.)

    Back to the main topic of otherworldliness in the film: there was the mysterious Lady Death, in her hooded robe (in retrospect it should have been more obvious that this is who she was supposed to represent) who was waiting for him, patiently, all that time- an omen of Kowolski’s end. But the interesting think here that I think helps ease the sting of the sudden death ending is that you could tell how attracted to her Kowolski was. He remained pretty uninterested in the other numerous blondes from the film, maybe caught up in the memories of his own dead girlfriend, but with this woman he stopped and quite obviously took notice. So maybe in a way Kowowski was looking for death. I didn’t see the end of the film as a sad one. He smiled before he hit. I think he knew exactly what he was doing and that this was always how he saw it ending. If he wasn’t going to make it then he ~truly wasn’t going to make it. No one was going to make him stop.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. BES ⋅

    First thing I thought after I watched this film is just like “WHAT?” because of the very last scene. I mean the scene Kowowski smashed against two bulldozers and his car bursted into flames. I was very surprised at the ending scene first but later I became to think there is no way to end like that. I mean in the film Kowowski looks like he is feeling abandoned from the beginning and keeps driving and driving. He does not have any specific reason to drive that way. I know that he met an dealer and made a bet with him so the bet becomes catalyst for Kowowski. However, it was just an excuse for Kowowski. The reason why I think so is when Kowowski called the friend of dealer and he said like “I don’t think I can make it by the time, let’s make it double next time”. So, although he lost his reason to drive crazily anymore, he did not stop driving. I do not think that he want die or suicide. I think he is sick of this society a lot because I can see many scenes that he reflects on his experiences in his whole life. That’s why he keeps driving that way to escape from the messy social stricture.
    After the discussion in the class, I totally agree with what our professor said. He explained us about the last scene and between the two bulldozers there is a bright sun shine. It looks like the heaven’s door. So Kowowski might feel he finally find a way to escape from this society which is like a heaven. In addition, he was very tired of driving and took drugs so he must be kinda high. That’s why he did stop at all and crush into the bulldozers, and it was the “Vanishing Point” for him. It makes sense well.
    Another thing I was surprised at during the discussion, there are some who did not like this film at all. I can agree that this film is not logical enough, no clear explanations about characters, and unclear ending and so on. Yes, I think so too somewhat. But, for me, I got into this film and felt very good after watching even I was surprised at the ending scene. I did not want to move soon. You know, in theater you do not want to leave soon, and still sitting and looking at credits when you watch a good film. I was like that. I do not know why, but I just feel nice. Maybe because of the beautiful images of American landscape, maybe his cool character, maybe the cool car, maybe the color and tone of this film. I think every elements is mixed and let me feel so.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Miraijinnohara ⋅

    I have seen many films which are known as cult films like this movie. Some movies are absolutely my favorite, but I can say this film is excluded from my favorite because the film is one of the nontraditional styles of the film which adds nothing to the viewing experience. Even though a film is not logical, it can be very artistic, abstract, or experimental, and get audiences into the film. Vanishing point is known as a car cult film and certain people actually like it. I can understand it is not a mainstream film, but a cult film because it is not logical and tries to break the typical idea that films should be acceptable for general audiences in a mainstream. However, I do not like this film because it is just stylized for the sake of being stylized. Some people will say no, it is an “Artistic Film”, and it all makes sense why the film is great if the plot is not logical. Then I must insist from my perspective that it does not work as an artistic movie because it is stylized not for the artistic reasons to convey anything meaningful. It is just about a car chasing and a man who wants to kill himself, which sounds like he is an emo person.
    This is all what I can say about this film.

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  24. emiferrie ⋅

    Near the beginning of the movie until maybe the middle, I was thoroughly bored because not much was going on, and I decided that this was just a bland, super macho movie that was meant for a male audience, catering to their egos and fantasies. What guy wouldn’t want to engage in a car chase with the police, winning every time, and having every girl you meet on the road want to have sex with you. I felt like rolling my eyes. Except that the cinematography was really pretty, which kept my eyes from rolling, and fixed on the screen.

    However, as the movie went on, adding more detail to Kowalski’s past, the overall theme and message of the film grew clearer. It showed the ups and downs of Kowalski’s life, and how he had grown so fed up of authority that he decided to let go and run away without looking back. I think that is something everyone can relate to to a certain extent, and I thought the style of creating this sympathy for Kowalski was rather clever. Kowalski is neither a good character or bad – he is human just like us, being bullied by the system.

    The last ten or twenty minutes of the movie was thoroughly confusing. The British woman who Kowalski ends up smoking marijuana and having sex with was a mystery in itself. Later in class we discussed how she is an omen or an angel of death, but why did she have a British accent? Why did she act so distant, and then suddenly so friendly? If there is any dealer meaning in her character, I am eager to know.

    The ending in itself was also confusing, but came as more of a sudden shock than that. I was expecting Kowalski to turn back towards the police like in the beginning of the movie (the alternative ending, should I call it?), and was wondering where else he was going to run away to, and then BAM!!! He hits the bulldozers full on and commits suicide. I was genuinely surprised, something that happens very rarely when watching a movie, and just wrote down in my notebook ‘Ending – wait, WTF?’ I applaud the director for that choice of two endings, really.

    This was definitely my favorite movie in this class. I can understand how people would find this bland and shallow, as I initially thought of it. A good movie makes you think long after you’ve watched it, and to me, that is what Vanishing Point did.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. abc ⋅

    So, this wasn’t one my favorites movies but i can say it did surprise me. I was expecting Kowalski to get caught by the police or run away but… he just hit his car towards those bulldozers!!! I was like, whaat??! Anyway, i understand the director’s choice and think it was based on the connection between this movie and the Expressionist movement. Expressionists believe that the free will is what matters the most and we shouldn’t try to fit ourselves into stereotyped concepts or role models. Anyone should do whatever they want and mind their own business, regardless of what society is expecting from them. There’s no such things as right or wrong and should or should not. That is why Kowalski decided to kill himself… he was on a desperate search for freedom and he actually was able to find it through his own death. The movie is, indeed, a big metaphor about life and its meaning.

    The only “problem” with this movie is that the audience has to know about expressionism and its theory in order to fully understand what the director means. Otherwise, the movie becomes tiring, confusing and meaningless. I can see why some people were pissed off about its ending and complaining on how the story was developed. In fact, sometimes I felt like the movie was long, tiring and non sense. And it really got me confused when the girls pop up. Was he hallucinating or were the women actually real? But then we have to remember that all that fuzziness and double meanings are part of its own “cult feeling”, which is what makes this movie special and different from mainstream movies.

    Overall, i think it is a really interesting movie. Although I would have never picked it to watch on a Sunday night, I am glad I could watch and analyze it in this class.

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