Thursday, September 1, 2011
I have seriously just been staring at the screen for a half hour or more, trying to think of what I could possibly say about a movie as famous and influential as Easy Rider. It was written by Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, and directed by Hopper in 1969. Even if you haven't seen it, if you know film, you know Easy Rider. It's the movie that started the New Hollywood movement in America, and the film that made Jack Nicholson famous. So why can't I think of how I feel about it?
The film is a road movie and a buddy movie, about Captain America and Billy as they smuggle cocaine and ride their motorcycles towards New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Of course, there are lots of little things that happen along the way. The are thrown into jail for parading without a permit, where they meet George, a drunken lawyer who gets them out and comes with them. They anger local men, get beat up, and head to find hookers, who they drop acid with. That sort of thing.
I guess I don't know what to say about the film because I've seen it so many times and talked about it so many times in film classes. Usually classes can make films more interesting, but that was never the case with Easy Rider, in my experience. We'd always just watch some weird condensed version and then be instructed on the many ways we should find it important. That can really take the joy and pleasure out of a movie.
But, to some extent, I understand why people were afraid to just let us dumb kids figure out the movie for ourselves. It's not a film that is current in any way. It's not really important because of the revolutionary nature of Hopper's mustache. It's important because it's a historical moment of in time, because it was the first movie to really go against traditional Hollywood. It spoke to a generation of people, to a different time, and it's all but impossible to understand that feeling. There aren't movies today that are an event, that break rules and change culture the way that this one did.
It seems maybe weird, then, to label the movie as great, but it still is. Well, to me, at least. I remember watching it for the first time and being shocked by the ending, because in my limited film experience, I had never seen a film like that before. I have a lot of bad memories of watching the movie in film class, but the first time I saw it was so great that it will always have a place in my heart. I just like the movie, even though it seems, in parts, so dated that it's basically a joke. I like the whole tone and style, and I've always loved the ending. I had a great time tonight watching it for the first time on Blu-ray.
Is there anything else I can say? I can probably list how I feel about different aspects of the film, and how much I like Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda, and Jack Nicholson, but really, I think we've all heard so much about the movie that it's just really boring to keep going on about it. I hope that makes sense. Maybe it's just me - I might be really sick of it just from studying it in so many classes, you know? I say sick of it, but I still love it. I'm sick of talking about it, reading about it, and writing about it...not watching it. :)
Have any thoughts on Easy Rider? Share them in the comments!
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Easy Rider
Buy it on Amazon