Goin' Down the Road (Donald Shebib / Canada, 1970):

"I came to the city with the sun in my eyes / My mouth full of laughter and dreams / But all that I found was concrete and dust / And hard times sold in vending machines." A string of quick glimpses (automobile carcasses, a half-sunk boat, grass on train tracks) states Nova Scotia's stagnation, a raucous drive in a rolling trash can of a Chevy convertible condenses the exodus. The protagonists (Doug McGrath, Paul Bradley) are affable roughnecks from the Maritimes, the dream is to "hit some nice spots, have some good times." Toronto in the distance is a gleaming vista, skyscrapers with the wrap still on them, up close itís a night spent in a cramped flophouse. The new world is exciting until it grinds you down, packing crates at the bottle factory summarizes the migrantís condition: "The same stupid circle doing the same stupid thing, over and over." A luckless double date dragging into the night, a bashful courtship at a records store, a tableau of awkward guests at a knocked-up hairdresser's (Jayne Eastwood) wedding reception, all is chronicled by Donald Shebib with a documentarianís eye for granular verity. Byproducts of a hardscrabble production, the unwarming, sallow sunlight and smeary neon create their own immediate impressionism, somehow unvarnished and graceful at once. A house erected on credit ("A $500 TV and not a pot to piss in!") will not stand, the quasi-couple dissolves into a quasi-family and then simply dissolves in the wake of a botched supermarket raid. An empathetic social experiment, forlorn and humorous in the face of despair, a humble and probing snapshot. Midnight Cowboy and Ray's Mahanagar are the precedents, Schatzbergís vagabonds in Scarecrow and Wenders' truckers in Kings of the Road figure in parallel odysseys of national/cinematic identity. With Cayle Chernin, Nicole Morin, Pierre La Roche, and Stompiní Tom Connors.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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