By Robin Simmons
This meandering and fascinating feature documentary explores the artistic, musical and literary resonances of the mythic and real notion of the open road in America during the middle of the 20th Century. It’s about going off the beaten path and the impact of the Beat Generation. The open road seduces with the promise of our dreams just over the horizon. That ribbon of light has inspired art, movies, poetry, folk music and novels among other things. It’s a staple of Hollywood and a genre of its own. It also empowered radical political ideas that still reverberate.
The AMERICAN ROAD is an amalgam of the ideas and images that washed over us as expressed by poetry of Walt Whitman (as read by Ed Asner), the songs of Woody Guthrie and the non-linear ramblings of scruffy Jack Kerouac. Behind the sly use of clips and images in various states of clarity and decay, there are provocative ideas and statements that mirror the post-war years and the adventures and misadventure of the 60’s generation. D. H. Lawrence said Whitman’s open road was “the bravest doctrine man ever proposed to himself.” The movie dares to tap into that mythos with a contemporary relevance that is at first deceptive but lingers long in the mind.