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Easy Rider (1969)
Directed by: Dennis Hopper
Starring: Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson
Running Time: 1h 35m
TMM Score: 4 stars out of 5
STRENGTHS: Authenticity, Intamacy
WEAKNESSES: Slow Pacing
A couple of young, drug dealing, motorcycle enthusiast friends, set out across America, West to East, looking for the freedom that the American Dream promised them.
Changing the Medium
As someone who wasn’t born when this movie was released, I feel very unqualified to write this review. From what I have read, the style of production this movie was and it’s impact on the cinematic culture is immeasurable. I grew up in a film world where this impact had already been felt and weaved its way into the media landscape so most of the changes this film influenced happened before I was watching movies and certainly before I became a connosseur of them.
As such, I leave to the film history books and other older reviewers to contextualize the film more completely than I can. I will endeavor simply to give my impressions of the film sans its broader impact on the art form itself.
The thing that strikes me most as I watch "Easy Rider” is how simple of a concept it is. Just a couple of dudes riding cross country on motorcycles, getting high and meeting new people along the way. There aren’t a ton of twist and turns, no big plot moments, and the characters, such as they are, are less characters and more alter egos of Hopper and Fonda. In many ways the film feels more like a documentary than a film.
That is why the film resonates with me. I watch it and feel that I am getting to know how these guys actually feel. When a character says how they are feeling It’s not just the character that feels that way. It is the actor who felt that way. The intimacy that this creates is surely one of the draws of the film. These guys really feel this way. Their dialogue isn’t the product of some Hollywood producer guessing what young people talk like these days.
That being said, the film is a little slow for my taste. It isn’t doing anything else terribly interesting as a story. It’s value lies almost completely in what it has meant in time and not in its actual plot or story. In that way, it is a wonderful expression of a youth culture dissatisfied with the ‘promises’ and ‘purposes’ of life as it had been taught to them. They don’t care about such things. They simply want to ride, to fly, until they die. Who cares about the plot and meaning of it all.
In the end, the ride fills the screen and memory more than the destination.
This might have seemed like a startlingly different film when it opened and the boomer kids and rebellious hippies must have felt like they were seeing a film that got them for the first time but for my taste , it is simply the first in a line of films which all seem to be making similar points and frankly, doing it in a more interesting way.
That doesn't take away the fact that much of what we consider indie film, owes its existence to the trail that this film blazed.
By no means is this a bad film, simply not one that I will find myself reverencing over the years as some do.
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