Daily Recco, May 5: Easy rider, motorcycle away from the world
Easy Rider is a cult classic that sparked some deep changes in the way Hollywood made movies.
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Most human stories involve the concept of a journey in one form or another. Sometimes a literal journey on the screen is what makes a movie click in the minds of its audience. Easy Rider is one such motorcycle movie from 1969 that is incredible for taking viewers along on a journey, in which the destination keeps getting farther away.
Easy Rider is a cult classic that sparked some deep changes in the way Hollywood made movies. Its edgy visuals and seemingly meandering storyline gave guts to a wave of filmmakers who stepped outside the bounds of an ossified Hollywood mentality and make bolder storytelling choices than ever before.
It is not a regular motorcycle gang movie like Hells Angels on Wheels or The Wild One. There is no repentance in the characters towards the end. Easy Rider is about two guys who want to dissociate themselves from all societal structure, including the counterculture waves that washed over the US in the 1960s and 70s.
Dennis Hopper directed and starred in Easy Rider, along with Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson. Wyatt and Billy set out from California with their money from a drug deal hidden in the tanks of their motorcycles. They want to head to New Orleans to catch the Mardi Gras festival. The film is essentially a collection of their experiences as they drive across the US Sun Belt and South.
Each interaction they have on the way underlines how everyone is part of one societal structure or the other and how they want to have no part of these structures. It is also perfectly comfortable taking shots at hippies and the communes that defined a significant portion of American life in the 1960s.
Most popular references to Easy Rider are usually centred on the fact that the actors did not pretend to consume drugs while making the film — they actually did the drugs. And that factoid is just a sample of just how many things about the film remain deeply offensive to sensibilities even today.
Watch Easy Rider on Netflix. It is a great watch because it is a journey where one is never sure what the destination truly is. You may not be able to hop on to your own motorcycle or into your car and hit the road considering the new normals of the world we live in, but maybe humans are, as the words of one of the iconic soundtracks from the movie say, “born to be wild”.