Sunday, 11 September 2011

Dream On

Cast your mind back to the end of the 80s and you may have a hazy memory of Road Dreams, a series six short films originally broadcast in 1989 when Channel 4 was still vaguely young and alive. Actually Channel 4 used to broadcast all kinds of crap but if you like a little Americana then Road Dreams retains a gentle timeless artistry that may be of interest.

In 1968 British filmmaker Elliot Bristow began a 12 year road trip around America, recording 75 hours of Super 8 film which he would show at multi-screen peformances along the way. Inspired by Jack Kerouac's On The Road, Bristow's vision combines the candid, relaxed qualities of home movies with a poetic, impressionistic editor's eye. The images were filmed without live sound, but there is little in the way of conventional documentary narration, with occasional observations akin to diary entries and a few Kerouac quotes. The musical soundtrack is of slightly naff 'mellow' sounds mixed with bits of Penguin Cafe Orchestra and Tom Waits, the best being Leo Kottke's driving intro theme, Machine No.2.

Road Dreams Theme by MoundsandCircles

There's no real agenda, just life as it happened. Major events such as the war in Vietnam and the Watergate scandal don't intrude, but Bristow's focus on the mundane and everyday events achieve a renewed spontaneity, captivating the viewer and carrying one along for the ride. Ken Kesey would have approved.

Elliot is kind, generous chap but he's not a pro. He's always earned his living as a commercial truck driver, not a filmmaker, so why not have a look here if you'd like to help fund his current projects.

Perhaps his amateur or outsider status has prevented him from gaining wider recognition; hopefully this may be changing as he was invited to lecture at Liverpool University earlier this year; you can listen to the man's lovely Bristol burr here.

© Elliot Bristow

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this. I have spent 30 years trying to figure out if I actually saw this on Channel 4 in the 80's. 'Road Dreams' really hooked me, made a lasting impression.



    pete at somerled dot org dot uk