Pit Stop ★★★★

In the beginning was the Car, and the Car was with Art, and the Car was Art.
Dave Hickey, The Birth of the Big Beautiful Art Market

If we were to see Jack Hill’s Pit Stop as a film that works around ownership, the most terrible scene is the one in which Hawk destroys Rick’s car. The thing about Hawk in the first two thirds of the film is that he’s just like Peggy Cummins in Gun Crazy, one of those characters that are extremely cinematographic because they have no image of the future ahead, there is only present for as long as the movie goes on and that’s it, so they just act. The scene can be divided in two: the part in which he attacks Rick and the part that he only focuses on the car. In the first part, you just think he’s going to kill him, and the handheld camera makes everything chaotic enough. But when he actually neutralizes Rick and goes to the car, time pauses and it looks like the actual aim was to destroy the machine. Cars seem to be the only thing these characters can own, as they don’t seem to have a home and their lives are owned by someone else, so damaging that is like damaging life, or worst (they take better care of the cars than they do of their bodies). But somebody else owns them through cars, so they are not only a ghost of themselves but of the relationship they have with that devil who controls the racing business. The car culture appears as something extremely exclusive which dooms everyone who is too poor to have one. They have to sell their workforce and their lives in order to half own one. So when he crushes the car, and he especially concentrates on the metal, it starts to look like he isn’t really destroying it but reshaping it, making it his own. It’s even a kind of revolt against the oppression of both characters, not only himself. But he’s also expelling Rick out of the picture, as no car equals no existence.
There is a strange thing about masculinity in all the films we have been watching, as it appears as a very contested subject. One of the main things that this exploiting situation makes Rick and Hawk do is to perform as hypermasculinized. In the film is a way of getting and keeping the job: showing no vulnerability, extreme strength, getting all the women, etc. It crosses class and gender issues a lot: the one who owns their driving also owns their masculinity in a way, the way it should be shown as a way of earning respect. But Hawk takes it a step further as in trying to regain it: he turns it into extreme violence and goes out of control. I don’t have this very clear yet but It’s something I would maybe like to get into, the way in which the characters of the films reveal (or are revealed) against a traditional idea of masculinity which is dictated and managed by class inequality. In Pit Stop that is so tense that the guys are only turned on in their workspaces, especially by women who carry huge drills and have their heads covered in a way in which sometimes there is no way of defining gender. In a way, they are always resisting what they are given: being poor, being a woman, being a man.
This would also be a nice double feature with Denis Côté’s ultra queer bodybuilder film Ta peau si lisse.