Friday, October 3, 2008

Easy Rider (1969) Film Review

Plot Summary - "Do Your Own Thing, In Your Own Time" - - A tale of bikers, freedom on the road, and redneck intolerance in the late 1960s. The film opens as two long side-burned, shaggy haired bikers ride into the "La Contenta Bar" in Mexico, make a cocaine deal, then ride off to the strains of "Born to be Wild" for a cross-country road trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. "Captain America" (Peter Fonda) wears a black leather jacket with a big American flag on the back, Billy (Dennis Hopper) wears an Indian style fringed suede jacket - the two of them have a real adventure riding across the Southwest and into the South hitting a seedy motel that won't take them, camping out, and meeting all sorts of characters along the way - oh yes, let's not forget the main thing: smoking joints and getting stoned. They pick up a hippie man/hitchhiker at one point and end up with him at this sort of hippie commune where they go skinny dipping with two chicks. Later, in a small hick town with a dislike for "long-hairs", they find themselves tossed in jail for "parading without a permit", then helped out by a fellow jailmate (Jack Nicholson) who was thrown in there for the night, drunk. This guy is a lawyer, an alcoholic who breakfasts on swigs of Jim Beam, and seems to have a longing to let his hair grow long and get the heck out of Dodge. He dons his old football helmet and joins them on the road, but when the guys hit this really backward Southern town, they attract a whole lot of attention in this little diner - a table of teenage girls who seem rather desperate for new males to look at as they gaze and giggle and drool over these newcomers. Um, the redneck males at the other tables - that's another story, with real trouble brewing.

Review - Well, I quite liked this - I've seen most well-known films from the past but, amazingly, this was my first viewing of this one. It's certainly a tale of it's time, though it doesn't take me back to 1969 in a nostalgic way as this story shows a world that was not my world in that year (well, I was a little kid in Valley suburbia in 1969, dad with black-framed glasses and crew-cut, mom who stayed home and bowled on daytime ladies leagues). The cinematography in this is done in a visually interesting style, close-ups and quick edits in places, lots of tracking shots of the guys riding down the road on their choppers, and an interesting pan shot done in one-take moving from face to face around a circle of hippies at the commune. The great soundtrack of songs by Steppenwolf, the Byrds, The Band, and others really gives this film a feeling of that time and place - I really like all the shots of the guys on their bikes as they ride through empty desert vista, into small towns, past Southern mansions, and under sunset skies, while cool songs play music video style in the background. Jack Nicholson is great in this, by the way, I really enjoyed his scenes, particularly when he gets stoned and goes on a ramble about humans from other planets living amongst us. An interesting film. Groovy man, ya dig?! Rating - 9/10 stars

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