Easy Rider (1969)
A man went looking for America. And couldn't find it anywhere.
1h 35min | Adventure, Drama
Directed by Dennis Hopper
35 mm (Arriflex cameras)
16 mm (Bolex camera)
Pando Company Inc.
Two hippie bikers, Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper) makes a drug deal and with the money they sets off on a journey across america with the goal of retiring in Florida.
Easy Rider is a film about the 60s counterculture but most of the criticism and topics are still valid today, which for me makes this film even more interesting.
Dennis Hopper was very influenced by the european art films and really wanted to make an american movie outside the studio system on his own terms, with a small budget and improvised way of working. All of this is visible and comes through on the screen, from the unconventional editing (direct cutting, back cutting, flash backs, flash forwards, jump cuts etc) to the use of music and improvised acting with actors using real drugs during the shoot.
The film is a mix of improvised smoking-weed-campfire scenes and transport scenes were we see the main characters ride their majestic chrome machines through beautiful landscape, while one of the best soundtracks from that time plays in the background. The music is one of the big stars of this film. Dennis Hopper did something that was quite unusual in the american film industry at the time, instead of using composed scores he used music from existing records. The groundbreaking soundtrack includes artist such as The Byrds, Steppenwolf, Jimi Hendrix, just to mention a few.
The story structure is a bit vague and the film can sometime have a problem with the momentum. The nice road scenes with the beautiful photography and great music does keep you amused but after a while the momentum drops. Especially during the part (about 30min in) where they interact with the commune/society living in the wild. I feel that that segment doesn't really add anything to the film and the acting feels overplayed and silly.
But soon after that the film does get a jump start thanks to the introduction of George Hanson (Jack Nicholson) a alcoholic lawyer. The character gives the movie another dimension, an emotional investment and we as the audience get someone that is "ordinary" and easy to sympathize with. I know that some people feel that he is a bit overplayed but in my opinion I like it, I guess you either love it or hate it. (Though I do hate his golden helmet that he wears).
The theme is very nicely incorporated through out the whole film with the help of dialog and symbolism. One good example is in one of the first scene where we see Wyatt hiding his money in his american fuel-tank, symbolically fuelling the american dream with money. This same symbolism is elaborated in the last scene.
With its unconventional filmmaking methods, amazing soundtrack it deserves a place in the film history and is definitely a must see.