Combustible Celluloid
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With: (voices) Jenni Olson, Tony Kushner
Written by: Jenni Olson
Directed by: Jenni Olson
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 65
Date: 09/24/2015

The Royal Road (2015)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Open 'Road'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A deeply personal, remarkably intelligent, and profoundly moving experience, Jenni Olson's The Royal Road is not easily labeled. Olson herself calls it a "stream of consciousness" film, rejecting the loaded term "experimental film." It consists entirely of spoken narration and lovingly sustained, beautiful, meditative shots of serene San Francisco landscapes, buildings and alleyways; these shots are empty of humans, though sometimes the wind blows and things move, or a pigeon flies by, or a car passes. Olson herself provides the intermittent narration, though there is also a section spoken by Tony Kushner. Named for the highway that connects San Francisco and Los Angeles, the film follows three, intertwining threads. First, there's the heartbreaking love story of the smitten butch lesbian up north and the elusive object of her affection down south. Second, it connects the plot threads of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, which Olson cleverly untangles over the course of her film. Third, it discusses Father Junipero Serrra (1713-1784), exploring a more politicized angle over the romanticized one that is usually presented in California history. Though it has been ten years since Olson's previous movie, the powerful The Joy of Life, her new effort proves that she is a filmmaker worthy of our admiration.

(Note: The movie will be opening at San Francisco's Roxie Cinema on September 24, 2015.)

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