Easy Rider (1969)
Hopper's Choppy Chopper Odyssey
Neh! Neh! Neh! Fuh! Fuh! Fuh! Indians - George Hanson
No matter how hard I try I just don't get Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper's "Easy Rider", it's a WTF movie for me. That's right it's a "What the F..." movie, because it's just so out there and so bravely different to modern commercial cinema that it seems to be a movie which is going no where and gets no where. But then I understand why I don't get "Easy Rider" because it was released before I was born and tackles the feelings of a generation which I just can't connect with. It tackles subjects which I can't comprehend so much of the symbolism and drug taking passes me by because it is quite simply a generational movie.
Having made a packet from selling dope and stashed the cash inside their motorbike gas tanks, bikers Wyatt (Peter Fonda - 3:10 to Yuma) and Billy (Dennis Hopper - The Sons of Katie Elder) head off on a road trip to see Mardi Gras. Along the way they encounter hippies, a drunken lawyer George Hanson (Jack Nicholson - The Bucket List) and a whole range of hatred and prejudice as they strive for independence and freedom.
Probably where I struggle the most with "Easy Rider" is that between not having what I would class as a storyline and some heavy editing it does not make for a free flowing movie. What do I mean, well once you get past the intro which sees Wyatt and Billy selling drugs for a huge profit the rest of the movie is very much a road trip taking in what these two men see on their travels. It has very few moments of perceived drama and for the most seems to revel in a drug fuelled haze, with sharp snappy edits causing it to jump instead of flow. Now I know the first cut of the movie was a lot longer and so Dennis Hopper working as director cut out much of the movie which expanded the storyline but still it makes for a very jumpy, uneven movie. What I will say it is a very brave movie for doing so as it is vastly different to most movies I have ever seen, as it appears to have been stripped to the bare essentials.
The other major issue is that, and remember this was released before I was born, there is a lot of symbolism to do with living the dream, freedom and the feeling of the misunderstood youth of the late 60's/70's. It takes in the world of the hippies, drug taking and the harsh views of the general public who see being different as being wrong. Most of this is incomprehensible to me and so I struggle to connect to any of it, that deep down string of emotion that flows beneath the surface. But as already mentioned "Easy Rider" is very much a generational movie and as such those who were growing up when it was released will have connected with it and still probably will today.
But despite not being able to connect with "Easy Rider" I can appreciate why it has become such a cult classic. It does represent views and feelings of a generation and is often brave in the way it's done, throwing a few shocks in when you least expect it. What I can also appreciate is the wonderful scenery which the road trips takes in, much of which is breath taking, although I am sure the breath taking scenery was never meant to be the main point of the movie.
Of course "Easy Rider" is famous for not just the performances of its main stars Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson who hops on for the ride but also because Hopper and Fonda wrote the movie and between them took on the direction and production of it, something neither had done before. With all that in mind not only are the performances excellent but so is the movie especially for being quite daring. Whilst I find it hard to connect with Hopper's long haired Billy or Fonda's leather clad Wyatt the pairing works brilliantly and with the accompaniment of the quirky Jack Nicholson as George Hanson it is a diverse and often humorous bunch, delivering many memorable scenes between them.
It's worth mentioning that in this day and age where cinema revels in CGI enhanced action, complex storylines and often gross out comedy watching "Easy Rider" is like a complete shock to the system. With that in mind and with it also being a generational movie, it has to be said that I am sure that many modern audiences would struggle with the stripped down production and storyline, making them question why such an often strange, quirky movie has reached cult status.
What this all boils down to is that whilst I really don't get "Easy Rider" and find it a very difficult movie to both enjoy and appreciate I can see why it is such a cult classic. With all the symbolism and emotions it's very much a generational movie for the 60s/70s crowd and as such you will need to have grown up during that time to appreciate the movie and the emotions it taps into. Even so it's a brave movie and the performances from Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson are well worth watching to see 3 great actors working together. Plus it has an absolute cracker of a soundtrack with many recognizable songs.
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