It used to be that if someone asked me to name the ultimate 'car film', Three Lane Blacktop would pop into my mind first. But not anymore.
There is not nearly the same level of car fetishism in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, but Cimino is definitely trying to say something with autos. The title characters are in seven different automobiles before credits roll, four of them they stole. And even though they are always moving, they don't seem like they get anywhere.
Even a plan is worked out by drawing on a car.
Parallels to the Western genre are no clearer then when the cars are "taken to water".
There are so many scenes where the cars are not on any road at all. It is really strange and yet, because of the scenery, oddly beautiful and familiar. Replace the car for a horse and we have a period-piece.
It feels like, in the hands of another, less sincere director, the off-road abundance would approach tacky; the connections with the Western would be heavy-handed. Instead it comes off subtle and grounded in a reality that masks it. It wasn't even affecting me on the first viewing.
Jeff Bridges brought such an energy to this performance, a playfulness and spirit that worked so well with the material. When an actor makes choices that so totally create an understanding in the viewer that the words are spilling right from the character's mind, it's magic.
The sorrow and pain that Lightfoot has is only revealed cryptically, and contrapuntally to Thunderbolt. Like in the scene where Lightfoot talks about how he started on the road, after meeting a woman on a train. "Now you can't stop" Thunderbolt interjects. Lightfoot looks at him. It's a full shot, but we can still see, through Bridges' look, not just an acknowledgment of that truth, but a sadness in it as well.
Maybe someone can help me understand the significance of Thunderbolt having the white convertible Cadillac in the end, which Lightfoot revealed is his goal in the beginning of the film. Did Cimino simply want him to die a "hero" in his dream car?
Once again, the FotMC is blessed with another interesting and rewarding selection that fell under my radar all these years. Looking forward to other discussions. Thanks Glenn.