Story: A guy moves to Hollywood to be with his actress girlfriend, but has issues getting to LA when his car breaks down and he has to hitchhike. He takes on odd jobs and winds up with a strange woman who may be trying to kill him.
Why You Should See It: The average running time for movies today is about 135 minutes. A buddy of mine used to say,”shave 15 minutes off any movie and you have have a much better movie.” He said this about 15 years ago. Today, I would say, “shave 45 to 60 minutes of any movie and you might have a good movie.” Well, the classic film noir “Detour” is about one hour long… and it’s the funnest one hour you may ever spend watching anything on YouTube.
But doesn’t that instantly take stress off my suggestion? That this movie I am recommending is only one hour long? Are all movies Lawrence of Arabia-length today because the studios have to justify how much they’re spending? Or is it because every character needs an arc, and every actor needs a reason to be in it for SAG minimum? Or because we feel like we have to explain every little thing to the audience (even if that’s the last thing an audience wants). I digress… Let’s talk about why Detour is a great fucking movie.
“Detour” is your typical film noir with a naive guy and femme fatales and a vacuous city of angels that will suck you dry. But what makes it different, as good as, in my opinion, “Double Indemnity,” – perhaps better? What separates “Detour” from any other film noir if it has all the same shit? It’s style, baby. “Detour” is 95% in voice over. And I love movies that are mostly in voice over. Take “Good Fellas” and “Casino.” Take “Fight Club.” Take “Election.” Take the rarely seen but sort of brilliant “Boxes.” Take “Barry Lyndon” for Chrissakes. Movies that have MOSTLY voice over have a great degree of being damn good.
These oddball movies are not made that much because MOSTLY VOICE OVER looks really bad in a screenplay. You can’t sell a screenplay that has 95% voice over. It looks lazy. It looks like you’re telling the audience rather than showing them (whereas today, we EXPLAIN to the audience rather than show them).
What do all these MOSTLY VOICE OVER films have in common? They were made by auteurs or made so cheap, their screenplay didn’t have to be judged. Scorsese, Fincher, Payne, Kubrick, Besson (not Luc, but Rene, the one who directed “Boxes”). Fincher insisted that “Fight Club” had the narrative of the book. Scorsese began production of “Casino” with an incomplete script. In Payne and Kubrick’s case, they adapted from books and used those narratives.
These movie-makers recognized that there is a power to great voice over. It transcends the film into a visual novella. There’s a richer engagement via the audience. They feel like they’re reading. They feel less dumb. It’s true, my brain actually feels muscular after I watch “Barry Lyndon,” that same sensation from reading for hours (remember the last time you did that? A book, I mean, not a bunch of mind sucking blogs like this one). Anyway, “Detour” is the inception of this style. It came before “Barry Lyndon,” “Casino” and “Fight Club.” It is one awesome movie. The “Citizen Kane” of mostly voice over movies. I Can’t Believe It’s On YouTube!
Written by: Norith Soth