Monday, August 13, 2007

Easy Rider (1969)

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Easy Rider has all the ingredients needed for a classic; groundbreaking direction, genius editing, thoughtful acting, and a killer soundtrack. Nearly 40 years from its release, the definitive film of the counterculture movement of the 1960s still feels as beautiful and shocking as it did during the summer of Woodstock, Vietnam, and the Manson family killings. The brainchild of writers/co-stars Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, the film details two rebels cashing in on a big score, traveling from LA to New Orleans in the search for Mardi Gras and the American Dream. Hopper's direction is phenomenal, especially considering the work he followed Easy Rider with. It is difficult to think of a movie that more artistically presents the natural landscapes of America. Hopper's acid trip sequence is as memorable as it is horrifying and must surely represent the most genuine visual reproduction the sensation. The film is purposefully slow in pace giving the viewer the true feel of a road trip. The acid-flash feel of the editing is so unique that Easy Rider may have been the first and only film since to use it. Hopper and Fonda completely embody their characters, but Jack Nicholson steals the show in his first major performance as the lawyer George Hanson. Nicholson's character is one of the most memorable in film history as he delivers carefully crafted lines with authenticity and distinctiveness. The soundtrack becomes a character itself as Easy Rider was the one of the first movies to take advantage of using previously recorded popular music, rather than a composed score, to color the action. The tracks are not only classics but fit the imagery perfectly. But what makes Easy Rider truly legendary is the layers of artistry it presents. Many films today are nice of the surface or entertaining, but Easy Rider is in the select group of films that are deeply thought out bodies of work, in this case glorifying and critiquing a diverse America. Strong characterizations illustrate the polarized America of the forward thinking hippie movement from the conservative backlash that was provoked. The film is full of visual and verbal allegory, metaphors, and symbolism, and the stunning conclusion questions just how successful the counterculture uprising was in changing America. When Peter Fonda's character says, "You know Billy, we blew it," it is one of the most crushing, thought provoking lines in film. Simply put, Easy Rider is a masterpiece that was and is mandatory viewing.

Good For: everyone, fans of road trip movies, artists, those in an alternate state of mind

Bad For: narrow minded viewers

The Gallery
The Surfer: * * * * *
The Film Maker: * * * * *

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