...the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Easy Rider

95 min. | Dir. Dennis Hopper | Rated R

What the hell happened in the 60s? Based on the cinematic evidence (see also Cool Hand Luke and Bonnie and Clyde), being young and free meant being dead. And I don’t mean dead inside, man, but cold, kaput, lights out. As Jack Nicholson, playing a lawyer with a drinking problem, says, “It’s real hard to be free when you are bought and sold in the marketplace. ‘Course don’t ever tell anybody that they’re not free ‘cause then they’re gonna get real busy killin’ and maimin’ to prove to you that they are.” That’s a chilling line, all the more so for coming mere months after the assassination of Bobby Kennedy and MLK, and it seems as relevant as ever. Also apparently still relevant: The evil of rednecks, who here—as they so often do—represent society so square it’s crooked. They come after Jack and his pals, the easy (and impossibly handsome) rider Peter Fonda and his sidekick Dennis Hopper, who are financing with drug money their motorcycle trip across the country. The drugs aren’t made to look appealing, which might be due to the heavy use of jump-cutting and Steppenwolf, but the movie is an engrossing, if stylistically dated (and at times dishonest) night out. A key film of the era. (At the Bay Theatre in Seal Beach.)

[To published in the print edition of this week's District.]

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