Greenpoint, October, 2015

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Call Me Kowalski

Gregory Peck as Ahab
With these words, Herman Melville famously began Moby Dick. Oh, wait. I'm confusing Melville's masterpiece from 1851 with Vanishing Point, the 1971 movie about a guy named Kowalski hired to drive the supercharged Dodge Challenger (pictured in the blog's header) from Colorado to L.A. Actually, the connection between Moby Dick and Vanishing Point is not entirely a travesty. In an earlier post in the Be The BQE Road Movie Festival, I blogged about Don Quixote and the origin of buddy movies. I make a similar case here for Captain Ahab as the progenitor of the lone rider genre.

Alpha Male?
Okay, Ahab is on a Nantucket whaler with a crew that includes Starbuck, Ishmael, Queequeg, Tashtego and many others. But is any character in all of literature more truly alone? You can say the same about Martin Sheen's captain, alone amid his crew, headed upriver in Apocalypse Now. Which brings us back to Vanishing Point and Kowalski. He's alone in the Challenger, true, but he has the voice of Cleavon Little, the whacked-out, blind DJ, to guide him. Variations on this theme abound: in The Graduate, Dustin Hoffman's character has Simon & Garfunkel as he drives back and forth between L.A. and Berkeley in his little red sportscar; in Broken Flowers, Bill Murray's has the Ethiopian music made for him by his neighbor Winston.

So while the BTB Road Movie Festival ends today, the hero's journey goes on, from The Odyssey to Moby Dick to Kung Fu to Vanishing Point. You can get just enough of the latter in the trailer on Youtube.

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