Hard Body Tex-Zen

The Lone Star State supplies an extremely unlikely subject for a documentary -- Hands On a Hard Body -- that develops into one of those Zen parables that can be found all things.

In the northeast Texas town of Longview, 24 contestants gather for a competition against each other and against the self: Be the last person to keep one hand on a 1995 Nissan Hard Body pickup truck and get to drive home in it. Just as in Sartre's No Exit, as the hours slide by, the players reveal heretofore unsuspected dimensions of character.

Then finally, up around hour 75 or so, this contest of pluck, grit and stamina depletes its fuel reserves and enters a weightless state of surreal euphoria, quietly reminiscent of that loopy strain of Texas dementia to be found in Terry Southern or Terry Allen or Bud Shrake or Dave Hickey or Roky Erickson or Don and Fred Barthelme.

And as in most great drama, character is destiny. The film has captured high honors at three film festivals. Made by S.R. Bindler (entirely on video) from more than 90 hours of marathon footage, and financed by Longview favorite son Matthew McConaughey through his J.K. Livin' Productions ("just keep livin' " -- Wooderson's credo in Dazed and Confused), the whole thing is just goofy enough to allow for incidental profundity.

-- Paul Cullum

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