Allison Anders’ character study is out in a new Blu-ray from Arrow Academy
Arrow Heads — UK-based Arrow Films has quickly become one of the most exciting and dependable names in home video curation and distribution, creating gorgeous Blu-ray releases with high quality artwork and packaging, and bursting with supplemental content, often of their own creation. From the cult and genre fare of Arrow Video to the artful cinema of Arrow Academy, this column is devoted to their weird and wonderful output.
In fictional Laramie, New Mexico, a single mom waitresses at a truck stop and raises her teen daughters in a trailer park. Brooke Adams heads the cast as mother Nora in Gas, Food, Lodging, the 1992 independent film written and directed by Allison Anders (Grace of My Heart). Fairuza Balk (The Craft) and Ione Skye (Say Anything…) play Nora’s daughters: the dreamy and bashful Shade who escapes into Spanish language films at the local cinema and Trudi, a survivor who longs for escape out of the small town.
The film and environment Anders creates differ strongly from the source material (see the interview with the director on the new Arrow release for more on that); in her hands, these flawed women in the rural southwest of the ’90s argue between themselves, missing chances for better communication. Trudi will confess a traumatic event to the older geologist she falls for, but hasn’t yet told her mother. Shade is determined to find a man for her mother, matching her up with a guy Nora recently dumped (and hadn’t told her daughters about).
Gas, Food, Lodging is a character study of the three women. Through events in the film, each woman becomes more herself. Trudi’s vulnerability with the geologist opens her up to further life changes. Shade — who tends to stand quietly by as others express racist sentiments —starts to find her voice after meeting her long-absent father (James Brolin). Abrasive Nora is softened by a new relationship with a younger man. Anders wanted love and hope to be within the realm of possibility for these women living on the edge of poverty.
The men are side-characters in Gas, Food, Lodging; even so, Anders makes them complicated and imperfect. The overtly racist language towards a character played by Jacob Vargas (Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion) is grating, but Anders writes him as defiant, someone who won’t stand quietly by and take it. A scene in his mother’s house is a soulful look into his family dynamic, as well as a stereotype-defying moment.
The new Arrow BluRay offers an opportunity to rediscover this work, with its director-approved high-definition print. The techniques used by Anders and her crew — especially the movie-within-a-movie sequences — give Gas, Food, and Lodging a modern, yet timeless, feel. The director says at the time distributors were “looking for a voice, basically,” and her film provides a story that is distinctly woman-centric.
The Arrow Films BluRay package includes:
- An interview with director Allison Anders about the genesis of the film and how her adaptation veers away from the original book
- Cinefile: Reel Women, a 1995 short documentary made up of interviews with such women creatives as Anders, Barbara Kruger, Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), Sally Potter (Orlando), and Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham), among others
- in this initial printing, a limited-edition booklet with original writing on Gas, Food, Lodging