Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Different Kind of Road Movie

I know one man filled with stories. He's my cab driver, the same guy we've called now for years to pick us up and take us to the airport for business trips and vacations. We use him exclusively (let's call him Cyrus) because he's reliable, polite, and a great conversationalist. Cyrus is from Iran, or "Persia" as he prefers to call his homeland. He's Azeri, a proud northerner, and takes a secularist point of view in describing his old home. He's well-informed in political affairs in general and we have a great time smashing the current administration's dreadful campaign in Cyrus' part of the world.

I may go for months without seeing him, but whenever I find myself back in his cab, we return to our discussion, picking up much the same subject matter, adding what's new or just re-entering his past for another story. Over time, I have acquired a layered, nuanced experience of this man's life. The cab rides become not so much a series of discrete events as a room to be entered, a study for thought and reflection: "We're back in the cab now, time to go to Persia."

Cyrus, like any of the many foreign born cabbies in our town, would be a great subject for a documentary. I'd break away from the conceit of HBO's Taxi Stories, that focus on the eccentric passengers, and find a way to string together a series of stories told by the driver. The cabbies' tale might be a new take on the "road movie", one where a continuity of narrative replaces a physical destination. The line of retelling, the recalled event, is laid out across the driver's perpetual looping through the city. Real time would be cut up and rearranged to suit the story line.

How could this develop from here? How would one make it artful and entertaining? How much can we get from the cab-as-camera obscura? Would we focus on one or more of Cyrus's tales, or string a series of cabbie philosophers together, flying in some kind of parallel formation? Do we have any hope of a dramatic structure? Or will this be more like Calvino's Invisible Cities, a spiralling and open-ended series of riffs on a theme?