Easy Rider

From Academic Kids

This article is about the movie Easy Rider. There is also an article about the slang expression easy rider.

Easy Rider is a 1969 road movie directed by Dennis Hopper which many see as representing the embodiment of the hippie lifestyle of the 1960s. The film tells the story of two young men, Wyatt (played by Peter Fonda) and Billy (played by Dennis Hopper), who "went looking for America but couldn't find it anywhere."

Contents

Synopsis

After smuggling some cocaine from Mexico to Los Angeles, Wyatt and Billy sell it to a man in a Rolls Royce (played by music producer Phil Spector) in exchange for a large amount of cash. With this money stuffed into one of the fuel tanks of their California style choppers (a type of customized motorcycle that was popularized by this film), they ride eastward in an attempt to reach New Orleans in time for Mardi Gras.

Wyatt, whose name evokes the American Old West lawman Wyatt Earp, dresses in American flag-adorned leather and calls himself Captain America. Billy, whose name evokes the American Old West outlaw Billy the Kid (or, perhaps, gambler Wild Bill Hickok), dresses in Native American-style buckskin pants and shirts. Clothed almost literally as America, they experience its land and people as they bike through the American Southwest and South. At one point they even witness the ceremonious prayer for blessing of the new crop of a commune, as put by a leader: A chance "to make a stand," and to plant "Simple food, for a simple taste."

While jokingly riding along with a parade in a small town, the pair are arrested by the local authorities for "parading without a permit." In jail, they befriend alcoholic lawyer George Hanson (played by Jack Nicholson). George helps them get out of jail and decides to travel with Wyatt and Billy.

While attempting to eat in a Lousiana restuarant, the trio's appearance attracts the attention of the locals. The local high school girls in the restaurant want to meet the men and ride with them; the local men and police officer threaten and verbally abuse the riders. Wyatt, Billy and George leave without eating and make camp outside of town. Wyatt and Billy introduce George to marijuana. As an alcoholic, George is reluctant to try the marijuana, but he eventually relents. The drug and events of the day cause George to comment: "This used to be a helluva good country. I can't understand what's gone wrong with it."

In the middle of the night, the local men return and brutally beat the trio while they sleep. Wyatt and Billy suffer minor injuries, but George is killed by a machete to the neck. Wyatt and Billy wrap George up in his sleeping bag, gather his belongings, and vow to return the items to his parents.

They continue to New Orleans and find the brothel which had been recommended by George. Taking two prostitutes with them, Wyatt and Billy wander the parade-filled streets of New Orleans. They end up in a cemetery, where all four ingest LSD. They all experience a psychedelic trip, represented through quick edits, sound effects and over-exposed film. Their trip is not a positive one.

In the end, though Billy remains oblivious, Wyatt declares: "We blew it." Wyatt realizes that their search for freedom, while financially successful, was a spiritual failure. The next morning, while driving down a country road, both are shot by rednecks in a pickup truck.

Impact

Easy Rider was written by Fonda, Hopper and Terry Southern, produced by Fonda and directed by Hopper. Despite being shot in the first half of 1968, between Mardi Gras and the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, it took nearly a year until its US debut in July of 1969. The title of the movie refers to the slang term easy rider.

Both the film and the director won a Golden Palm at the 1969 festival in Cannes, France. It was also nominated for an Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Jack Nicholson) and Best Writing, Story and Screenplay Based on Material Not Previously Published or Produced.

The film was #88 on the American Film Institute's list of 100 Years, 100 Movies, and has been selected for preservation in the United States' National Film Registry.

Along with Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde, Easy Rider helped kick-start an artistic renaissance in Hollywood during the late sixties and early seventies. The major studios realised that money could be made from low-budget films made by directors with artistic intentions. Heavily influenced by the French New Wave, the films of the so-called "Hollywood Renaissance" came to represent a generation increasingly disillusioned with their government and the world.

The movie was also mentioned in the book Steal This Book by Yippie revolutionary Abbie Hoffman; he urged all readers and "yippies" and hippies to make sure the rest of America didn't fall for the image of the Yippies, hippies, and their kind as a group with a (somewhat paraphrased) "Easy Rider take-no-crap" image.

Trivia

  • The scenes playing on a New Orleans cemetery towards the end of the film were shot first on 16mm film.
  • During the shooting, Dennis Hopper, legendary at the time for his drug excesses, tyrannized the crew so much with his paranoid control freakiness that everyone quit. The rest of the film had to be shot with an entirely new crew.

Track list (music from the film)

  1. The Pusher (Steppenwolf) (5:50)
  2. Born to be Wild (Steppenwolf) (3:38)
  3. The Weight (performed by The Band in the film, by Smith for the soundtrack due to legal issues) (4:33)
  4. Wasn't Born to Follow (The Byrds) (2:08)
  5. If You Want to be a Bird (The Holy Modal Rounders) (2:37)
  6. Don't Bogart Me (The Fraternity of Man) (3:06)
  7. If Six Was Nine (The Jimi Hendrix Experience) (5:34)
  8. Kyrie Eleison Mardi Gras (The Electric Prunes) (4:02)
  9. It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) (Roger McGuinn) (3:42)
  10. Ballad of Easy Rider (2:15)

External links

fr:Easy Rider he:אדם בעקבות גורלו nl:Easy Rider sv:Easy Rider tr:Easy Rider

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