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Easy Rider (1969)

Over the past week I have attempted to watch Easy Rider several times. I had an avi. file of the film, but recently got a high-definition copy. Before viewing the film I had some trepidation, because of a comment my mother made years ago. This was back when I was still in high school. Sitting in the living room watching AMC a commercial for the film came on to which my mom said, “I cannot handle that film” or “I have very bad memories of that film.” This was out of character for a person who rarely says more than whether she liked a film or that “the characters swore too much.”

My mind went a bit nutty from this comment. I started to imagine a entire sequence of events regarding my mom’s experience with the film. In 1969 when the film was released my mom would have been 19 and a prime target for the audience of this film. Thinking about this in combination with the film’s themes I could only believe that my mom and her California hippy friends dropped acid before attending a matinée screening. This logically led to my mom having small psychotic break during the films own infamous ‘acid scene’ and abrupt conclusion. However, for a young high school guy who had just seen Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream I could not imagine a more affecting drug film.

Well now some eight or nine years later I have seen the infamous film and of course in relation to the hype I brought to it, the reality was underwhelming. However, this was a wonderful thing. Instead of some demonic or disturbing probe into the fractured psyche of america citizens, it now seems to play like a postcard to the majesty of the endless highways and landscapes of the country. Laszlo Kovacs’ photography is astounding in its simplicity and depth. For nearly a third of the film the camera seems to be mounted on a truck filming alongside the main characters as they tool down the highway. Those along with extended tracking shots of highway scenery and rolling plains highlight the wonder of being out on the road. Having been away from the US for the better part of eight months it was a joy to see how beautiful the county can be.

After the opening title sequence and few of the above mentioned landscape shots I was on board with the film completely.  Most of the ‘plot’ fell by the wayside in favor of the cinematography. The events that happen through the film are mere blips along the journey of these men on the road. I imagine others have covered this aspect, but it cannot be denied. Rather than probing deep into a culture/class conflict or wondering how hippies will make it in a convent I was entirely focused on the joy Hopper and Fonda exuded anytime they hit the road. (Also, I love Jack Nicholson’s helmet!)

The soundtrack of the film also elevates the beautiful photography. From the title sequence “Born to be Wild” to the excellent use of Jimi Hendrix’s “If 6 was 9” as they enter New Orleans the film seamlessly pairs image and sound. It is no wonder that these songs have defined  ‘road tunes’ since the film’s release.

While there is always more to comment on these are a few sketches of the things I was struck by watching Easy Rider.

Rating: 4/5

Until next time, Cheers!

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