Friday, May 23, 2014

Easy Rider ★★★★

Image result for Easy Rider 1969 film stills

    A plane roars overhead at a Los Angeles airport, hampering the events taking place below for a moment, as four individuals cross each other's path. An exchange of cocaine and cash is made within a mere instant, and the two seemingly free-spirited men head off into the sunset--literally. A teardrop gas tank, beaming with American pride, is filled with money in a plastic tube.

    A watch is taken off and looked over one last time before being discarded, thus shedding the last material item that separates man from freedom and the establishment.

    These are the opening images of the 1969 film entitled "Easy Rider." This film is a product of the combined efforts of Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda; it is a picture that highlights the social issues which permeated the 1960s, and it almost certainly symbolizes the death of a culture.

    Surely this era of the mid-twentieth century would not be forgotten even if this film never existed; however, this film has become an iconic symbol of this time period simply for its radiating poignancy and subtle, yet riveting displays of characterization and direction.

    Our main subjects in this film are Billy and Wyatt. Although there is never an explanation as to how these characters have gotten to this particular point in their lives or any unforeseen actions that would allow us to decipher any significant qualities, we can ascertain their distinct personalities through dialogue and artful conversations.

    Billy is disguised as the stereotypical hippie, with long hair, a passion for drugs, and the aspiration to live a nonconformist existence. He is an ecstatic individual, who lives for the moment at hand. Billy is essentially an extension of the natural flow of life; the epitome of free will and a loyal companion.

    Wyatt is a well-reserved individual who, unlike Billy, seems to understand his role in the natural order, and it becomes evident that he is at peace with his mind and soul. He is always in control of his thoughts and acts as the conciliator between peace and anarchy when it comes to this unique relationship. Wyatt is a man who can respect a simple life and has never wanted to pretend to be anyone else. A man who could never be subdued into a life of acquiescence.    

    Despite the fact that this film is composed of a rather simplistic storyline, it is nothing short of memorable and simply a delight to view. The plethora of motorcycle riding scenes is accompanied by marvelous panoramic shots of charming scenery and music that would strum the soul of anyone who lived through this nostalgic epoch of human history.

    Billy and Wyatt are embarking on a journey toward enlightenment. Of course, this is in the sense of the identity of this counterculture that rebels against the organization and dreams of living free from the clutches of restraint. To finance their trip, which will climax in New Orleans, Billy and Wyatt purchase cocaine across the border and sell it in their native city of Los Angeles.

    Along the way, they encounter numerous characters, including a commune leader and an alcoholic lawyer who bails them out of trouble. Additionally, they experience a few tension filled instances where they are discriminated against for their long hair and well-crafted machines.      

    The most ingenious dialogue in this film takes place at night under the moonlit sky of the wilderness. Dennis Hopper lends his hand at direction and does not disappoint. Although there is much speculation surrounding the actual filming of this picture and the mental state of Hopper, I undoubtedly believe the notion that this film is a pure extension of Hopper's artistic perception. The film is littered with an excellent utilization of foreshadowing and symbolism.    

    Nevertheless, one of the most salient aspects of this tale would be the presence of Jack Nicholson. Nicholson, in his first prominent role, depicts a small southern town lawyer named George Hanson. This performance is highly underrated, as Nicholson's portrayal of this member of conformity provides a balance to the tone of the film.

    Hanson can understand the construction of this guideline-ruled society which our main characters cannot. A scene divulging into the subject of extraterrestrial beings highlights Nicholson's allure as an actor and provides us with a peek into what his legendary career will hold.

    When analyzing a film of this stature, the question of universality comes into context. Although the social and moral implications illustrated in "Easy Rider" are limited to a particular time and place, the message is a concise reflection of the most imaginative and iconoclastic decade of the twentieth century; therefore, creating a remarkable atmosphere. It was a time filled with love, experimentation, and rebellion.

    The nature of life presented in this film is almost entirely incomprehensible with regard to the modern world in which we live today. Whether consciously or not, we are attached to our technological devices, which prohibit us from becoming one with ourselves. These vices almost single-handedly control our existence, as they are present in our business and personal lives. And here lies the seduction of these free-wheeling motorcyclists and their uninhibited ideals. If the possibility of re-living this journey was still attainable, then this world would surely be a better place.            

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