Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper) - 1969

Sometimes you watch the right film at the wrong time. Easy Rider is very much a film about an era. A culture. A film focused on the counter culture. The hippies of the late '60s. A group of people so set on being able to live off the land, to live in a state of constant peace, and the sense of not having to answer to anything. Nature and self as the only two beings of importance. How timely that I would watch this film during a period of intense depression. The feeling of being trapped, caged has been looming over me for months. How do we escape? How do we find freedom? Are these just ideals?

This is the great outsider film. In this film, we are shown two lost souls. Two hippies and the way they interact with society. And the way society interacts back. These two men are standing in for a series of outsiders- women, queers, blacks, artists, etc. Easy Rider is the film of the outsider's American experience. It is lonely. And it is a rough example to witness.

I have read reviews stating the movie is dated. The ending is too heavy handed. I think I disagree, mostly. The ending may be a little heavy handed. But, art has a purpose. A message. In order for Easy Rider to really get the point across, the viewer has to take part in some pretty harsh and painful moments. I only found these scenes to elevate the film into the deeper purpose I felt it wanted to present from the start.

I love road movies. Easy Rider is very much a road movie. The only difference may be the purpose. Most road movies have a definite end result. The characters are always heading from point A to point B. In Easy Rider, while Mardi Gras is mentioned as a pseudo-point B, it is never actually the last place the two characters plan to end their trip. These are road side prophets. Men made mad from drugs.

Easy Rider is filmed in a very New Wave style. Much of the time I was reminded of the films of Godard. Mostly, Vivre Sa Vie and Band of Outsiders. The images had a lot of low grain quality, but were composed in such thoughtful ways. There were clips of images flashed on the screen that wouldn't be experienced until a minute or two later. Many of the images played out like photography. The Americana of it all reminded me of some of the images of William Eggleston (only a little).

My only complaint may be the acting. At times, the acting is a bit off. Much of the film is made up of extras. So, I can't really blame a cast of non-actors for being poor actors. And, on the other hand, the film isn't always about the things being said. On some level, Easy Rider reminded me of a foreign film. This wasn't a movie filled with lots of dialogue. When something was said, it was meant to be heard.

I try to think of the films that really caused me to breakdown in the end. Dancer in the Dark and The Wrestler are the two films in recent history that I recall leaving me completely devastated by the end. Easy Rider is now one of those films. Once I realized how things were going to end, I could only start to cry. And once it happened, I could only break down. Sadly, I had to gather myself up and head off to work. If I didn't have to work, I imagine I could have spent hours in tears.

We are a country that likes to talk. We like to share our opinions. We like to dream big. We like to imagine something more for ourselves. But, in the end, we're scared. We're afraid of change. We're afraid of those who are different. We're afraid of those who force us to question ourselves. Billy and Wyatt wanted to stop being afraid. They wanted to make a new path. We are witness to their mistakes. To their problems. To how removed you might have to make yourself in order to really survive the day to day. Is freedom a reality or just an idea? Easy Rider never really tells you. It only makes you understand how dangerous the pursuit of it can be.


No comments:

Post a Comment