Wednesday, January 27

Review: Easy Rider

For way too long this blog has been nothing but a dumping place for my frustrations. Nice for my, shit for people I forced to read this. So, from now on, I will only post reviews here. Hurray!


Before I begin this review, let's take a little detour into movie history.

From the 1920's to the 1950's the Hollywood cinema was dominated by the so-called "studio system". This meant that studio bigwigs pretty much decided the content of movies. There were celebrity directors, like Chaplin and Hitchcock, but they were the exceptions. The "star system" was also invented in this period: make an actor play pretty much the same role every time, so that the public knows what to expect (see Johnny Depp for a contemporary example).

This system might sound restraining, but it actually worked pretty well. Some of the greatest classics of all time (think Casablanca, The Wizard of Oz, It's A Wonderful Life etc) were made in this time.

However, all of this changed during the sixties.

The most important factor in this was that the filmgoing demographic changed drastically. Suddenly, the major part of the viewing population was younger then 30. And they had some completely new views on life, sex, society and politics (even the non-hippies).

The studio people had no idea what to do with this. For decades, youngsters had been content by the same kind of virginally picture-perfect style. But the new public could not relate to these kinds of films at all: they were doing drugs, exploring free love and listening to Rock 'n' Roll. They were looking for a different kind of movies, movies with artistic and intellectual depth. The filmnerds found this win European and Japanese cinema.

By the late sixties, however, the first load of this generation graduated from film school. This group included people like Woody Allen, Brian de Palma, George Lucas and the likes. They knew what was going on in the pop culture of that time and made movies with that in mind.

The studios slowly started to recognize this potential. They noticed that the film this new shift made, often on ridiculously low budgets, were very popular. Easy Rider was an example of this: the studio realized they had to adress more mature themes in their films to appeal to their new audience.

After these kinds of films turned out massively successful, many of these young filmmakers were hired by the studio and were granted a great deal of creative freedom. They proceeded to make the "modern classics": Last Tango in Paris, A Clockwork Orange, The Godfather etc. This new school is now known as the "New Hollywood" cinema.

So, this film definitely has played an important role in both movies and popular culture (it introduced the Harley Davidson to the great public). Great. Many thanks. That doesn't keep it from being a very mediocre film.

Let me clarify that statement before the fans set my house on fire: Easy Rider is by no means bad. Alias' Law certainly doesn't apply here. It's just so... boring.

Easy Rider is about two guys, played by Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda. They just sold an assload of drugs and decide to take a road trip on their Harleys to New Orleans. On the way they get scolded, pick up some hitchikers, visit a commune and use some LSD.

And that's it.

I think the major problem of this film is that nothing really happens. And
while that's not nescecarilly a bad thing (see Adaptation or The Seventh Seal), this movie really suffers from it. The atmosphere is cool (and definitly helped by a pretty great soundtrack), but it just wasn't enough to keep me interested for an hour and a half. The chemistry between the main characters is also rather dull: one is introvert and intelligent while the other is loud-mouthed and kind of stupid. Some shots simply last waaaaay to long (like the ""famous" round-the-table shot) and the ending is not a logical conclusion to anything. It comes out of nowhere and BOOM, the film is over.

I guess the film thrives more on a thematic level then on a narrative. This is, however, really a film about the times. As my movie mentor Stijn was quick to point out: this film is a critique on the hippie subculture. But a modern moviegoer like myself can't really find that in the film. It's a big case of both "If you say so..." and "Ooooh, so THAT was what it was all about". In it's time, these themes would have been obvious, but now they are kind of weird. I don't expect anybody in 2060 to understand Avatar, either.

Let me once again say: Easy Rider never made me hate it. But secretly, I wish it did. As it is, the film is just so bland it's not really much of anything. Except for a sidenote in film history.

I recommend that you keep it that way.


P.S. The music will stay!

This song is really in style with the movie, and also friggin' awesome in it's own right.

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