The original counterculture flick, Easy Rider, returns
Written by Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Terry Southern.
Directed by Dennis Hopper.
Starring Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Jack Nicholson.
LSC Classics Friday.By Raul Gonzalez
Two men roll up $100 bills and literally pump them into the red, white and blue gas tank of a Harley Davidson. As we see these two men beginning their odyssey across America to the tune of "Born To Be Wild," we know we are not going to be watching just another biker movie. Easy Rider is one of a handful of American films of the 1960s and '70s that used the social context of the period to express discontent towards the status quo, thus initiating a trend in contemporary American filmmaking. In fact, the questions that the film poses are as compelling to us as they were to our parents: Have we really found freedom, or are we just living an illusion?
Easy Rider is the story of Captain America (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper), who after making the deal of their lives (selling drugs, naturally), decide to travel from somewhere in the west to New Orleans, the promised land of the Mardi Gras. The two are promptly arrested when they join the procession in a public parade. In the local jail, they meet a young lawyer with a big hangover, played by Jack Nicholson, who for no particular reason decides to go with them. As they continue their trip, they meet people who either turn against them for being hippies, or love them for the same reason.
When I first saw this film, it seemed as if it were constantly telling me that there is an invisible yet sharp line dividing American society. As the trip progresses, we begin another level of acquaintance with the travelling trio: They somehow lose some of their individuality, which allows us to see them more as iconic images of the 60s. When they talk to each other, we see that none of them truly believes in the country they live in; for example, the lawyer tells Captain America and Billy that people don't hate them because they are hippies, but because they represent the freedom the rest of the country is craving.
Visual techniques common to underground films of the late 60s make Easy Rider a very enjoyable, even hallucinatory, visual experience. For instance, the blend between documentary and Andy Warhol styles provides us with a continually changing cinematic landscape. Neither the film, nor its psychedelic soundtrack (with songs by Steppenwolf and the Byrds), should be missed.