Angry Robot

Vanishing Point

You’ve got to love a film that can fascinate gearheads and inspire great cinematographers, so you love Vanishing Point. Kowalski, Kowalski… where to begin? What surprised me most was that I hand’t seen it yet. Hippies envisioned themselves as cowboys, yet Kowalski’s a square, albeit a tolerant, kind, benny-popping kind of square, heading west in a blazeout of psychotic freedom, whose motives are flashbacked to us obliquely and somehow incompletely. Freedom’s the name of the game, of course, but it is framed in the terms of speed: “speed means freedom of the soul,” comments Supersoul, the blind, wise DJ who serves as the film’s symbolic narrator (and I thought I’d had enough of blind, wise black men). Once LES and I were asked by art students to sum up the 20th century in one word. Our answers sucked, but the proper answer came to us later: “speed.” Vanishing Point transmits it deep into the reptilian brain – the stunts, the photography render it perfectly, yet again with enough mystery that it lingers for [we’ll see how long], like that ex-friend who’s ‘between apartments’ on your couch and you wonder what he’s really up to. Primal scream cut an album to be played under the film, and Barry “Kowalski” Newman played Avary in another fave The Limey – these are things I learn from my friends, whose love of this film precedes mine by far.

4 comments on "Vanishing Point"

  1. ThisDecourse says:

    Vanishing Point is the sort of film that’s much better with the sound off. That Primal Scream record is the sort of record that sounds better when played at 45 rpm rather than 33.3rpm.
    With the sound on, Vanishing Point, I think, becomes this really guilty pleasure characterized by an extremely high “whoa dude…” factor (cf. El Topo, Jorge Luis Borges, John Zorn, William T. Vollman) and you can’t help but be kind of engaged by all the contrived, heavy-handed, bean-bag chair philosphy even though you feel as though you ought to know better.

  2. marijke says:

    Hey ThisDecourse, are you by chance related to TheDiscourse? Cousins, maybe?

  3. ÿ says:

    Yeah– Hey!– What the fuck is going on!!?

  4. D says:

    I didn’t think there was that much heavy-handed philosophy in Vanishing Point – I guess they cut the Paul Virilio monologue.

    There is a recurring benny-popper character in hippie narrative – Neal Cassady is the prototype – but the real hippies frowned on speed. Interesting that in VP the cowboy-hero is a speed freak, and that this is combined with car culture and the journey west. Makes it at best on the edges of hippie thought, and the film’s release in 1971 brings Fear and Loathing to mind: both are more epitaphs for the 60s than celebrations.

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