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Updated: Aug 20, 2021




Tillman’s short film is a super strength shot of Americana, with the glass rimmed first in tears, and then salt. The opening shot of Susan Taylor’s Rose lying prostate in the scrub dirt, establishes the question how did she get there? For the answer we are taken to a motel room, where Rose is responding to her boyfriend Clay’s enquiry: ’Has your life ever flashed before your eyes?’ Having ‘playacted’ marching Rose at gunpoint from the bathroom to their rumpled bed, Clay tells his story of being bucked off a rodeo at Lafayette. Reference to classics of Americana saturate The Wheel, and the rodeo narrative sparks memories of The Misfits and Lucinda Williamson’s 1980s country folk track Lafayette.

Rose’s near death experience is deftly related in flashback. As soon as we see her broken down on an empty road, and then switch to the interior of another car, curiously without the radio tuned to a station with letters for a name blaring out heavy rock, previous viewings of Zodiac and Double Indemnity, let us know what to expect. An expressive, but speechless, Drago Sumonja, drives Rose to her final destiny, with only whistling wind, tyres on gravel, and occasional birdsong as her companions.

As the film intercuts between the motel room and the desert, Tillman’s clever twist on the age old tale of violence towards women, becomes apparent. And at the end there’s a summons to Silinas, place of loss in Me and Bobby McGee, and The Wheel’s place in the rolling sweep of Americana is underlined.

The Wheel’s poetic quality makes it repay rewatching, and certainly had me reaching for a fix of Paris Texas, provoking a longing for big sky country where anything can happen, including the very bad.


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