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Every film buff knows the Terence Malick story by now: a visionary director who made a couple of landmark films in the 1970s, then disappeared for two decades before staging a late-life comeback, which culminated with “The Tree of Life” winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes last year. Fewer know the story of director Monte Hellman: a visionary director who made one stone-cold classic road movie in 1971, “Two-Lane Blacktop,” then gradually faded into obscurity, his gem out of circulation — never released on video, and only on DVD some 30 years later — and his career a question mark of unfulfilled promise.

The comparison ends there, though: While both directors had an eye for taking genre material — such as a war movie or a road movie — and turning it inside out, Malick moved increasingly toward the mythic and spiritual while Hellman remained focused on real, grungy-looking people and the space between them.

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