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Carmageddon: Traffic jams are more fun on film

July 15, 2011 |  8:00 am

Deep Impact -- Carmageddon
With "Carmageddon" approaching fast (or slowly) upon Los Angeles, it is time to ponder: Is it better to be stuck in an enormous traffic jam or struck dead by a giant meteor? Although the 1998 disaster film "Deep Impact" was not exactly framed that way, it is a natural question as Southern Californians face a weekend of traffic woes thanks to the temporary shutting down of the 405 Freeway.

Fall-galleryIndeed, there's something truly cinematic about the doomsday hype surrounding the closure, which has included movie stars tweeting to stay ... off ... the ... road! and led some to wonder whether Carmageddon would steamroll "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2" at the box office. (Short answer: It won't. Duh.)

Movies, of course, have long used traffic jam scenes for various purposes. Some heighten the dramatic tension -- what could be worse than trying to escape mortal disaster and get stuck behind that IDIOT in front of you who is leaving that HUGE gap with the car in front of him?

Some are for less tense but more complex, such as the famous eight-minute tracking shot in Jean-Luc Godard's 1967 film "Week End," in which a couple navigate a French highway jam that serves as a commentary on the human condition. The behavior ranges from the absurd to the sublime, with ball-playing children, caged animals that include a llama, overturned cars, a man unfurling a sailboat's flag and ultimately the reason for all the honking, which puts the preceding machinations in a whole new context.

Watch the "Week End" scene below, then click on the photos above for a gallery of some other famous traffic jams on film.



Complete Times coverage of Carmageddon

Carmageddon, something we can all agree on

Carmageddon: L.A.'s cultural institutions plan to hunker down

-- Scott Sandell

Photo: A scene from "Deep Impact." Credit: Myles Aronowitz / Paramount Pictures