Every effort I made to enjoy Barking Water was undone by one big fact: It's a road-trip movie. My feeling for some time has been that American cinema needs fewer films about dysfunctional families and absolutely no more films about road trips. Both types of films are exhausted; they can no longer reveal new things about this society, its direction, its past, its possibilities, its politics. And besides, both forms are intrinsically bad because they have their roots in the suburbanization of America—the moment a specific family structure and mode of transportation become ideologically stabilized and radiated (the family is reduced to a nuclear unit, and the mode of transportation for this unit becomes the automobile). Barking Water, however, is not about a typical American family (it concerns Native Americans in Oklahoma), but it is a typical road movie—a man who is dying goes on his last trip.

To its credit, the film does have its moments (there is a scene in a cafe that is definitely crazy), and the photography is often startling (three Native Americans watching a sunset from the back of a pickup truck). Also, Barking Water can be connected with a new and growing form of low-budget, rural lyricism (for example, Lance Hammer's Ballast) that has emerged with, and yet is aesthetically the opposite of, the ugly urban bluntness (and chattiness) of mumblecore. But all of these advantages are not enough to overcome the hard (or dull) fact that Barking Water is just another road-trip movie. Northwest Film Forum, April 16–22 at 7, 9 pm.

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