Bitumen, Dirt Tracks and Lost Highways



It is difficult to define what it is that makes a film an ‘Australian road movie’. At its most basic, it would appear to be the combination of road, vehicle and human occupants. On closer inspection, a complex relationship between a cultural fascination with the car and a projection of freedom and social identity are at play. But to fully explore the freeways and underpasses of Australian road movies requires a major detour via the landscape of American cinema. It is impossible, moreover, to research the genre of road movies in American cinema without encountering the spectres of Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda riding their motorcycles across the U.S. in Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper, 1969). Arising out of the social, political and cultural environment of the late 1960s, the road movie, as typified by Easy Rider, can also be understood as a product of the frontier ethos of the American Western colliding head on with the technology of the 20th Century.

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