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Thread: Two-lane blacktop (1971)

  1. #16
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    I don't have anything to say about Kael I haven't said before. I respect the fact that you find/found reading her reviews to be exciting and that "Kael made it exciting to think about the movies during this period". I was certainly curious enough when she came to my attention in 1980 to go back and read her reviews from the 60s and 70s. Generally speaking, her writing didn't have the same effect on me that it had on you. You can respect that.
    Five Easy Pieces may be better than Easy Rider but I have to go by recent experience with this movie and say that Easy Rider held up pretty well in my estimation. Ending still packs quite a punch and some of the improvised scenes are endlessly fascinating to me.
    I also agree that a lot of 70s creative capital was wasted because of various kinds of excess.
    I find movies to get excited about, movies to rewatch with pleasure in every decade. Don't want to generalize too sweepingly but there was something particularly fresh and different going on in and out of Hollywood in that late 60s to mid-70s period.
    Last edited by oscar jubis; 08-03-2011 at 06:54 PM.

  2. #17
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    Okay, yeah.

    I'm sorry we don't have any Kaels today. But there was only one really.

    I'd agree that there's not much fresh and different coming out of Hollywood now if there ever was. At that time there was a bit more of an indie and less stdio machine flavor to some Hollywood films. You don't have to defend that period. I was only saying Easy Rider doesn't hold up as well as some of the others.

  3. #18
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    Why doesn't Easy Rider hold up Chris?
    I think it's only dated in terms of 60's wardrobes (Phil Spector's glasses- what a laugh) & music.
    But it still has a lot of power.
    It still has the power to make one think and feel.

    In Biskind's "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls" book he says that at the end, the audience has to reconcile the "freedom" on screen (two dead bikers) with the song playing: "The Ballad of Easy Rider"- very few movies have ever put a viewer in such a spot with it's end credits.


    "Go for the big money and then you're Free"

    Um, no you aren't.....
    Last edited by Johann; 08-04-2011 at 11:03 AM.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  4. #19
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    You would have to include this in a course in American movies of the period. Of course it has some excellent moments; Fonda was cool and stylish (though absent, a void) and Nicholson is always vivid and watchable (and here, the only articulate one). It's a good-looking movie (with cinematography by Laszlo Kovacs) and it has some good songs to back up the atmosphere. But it's weighed down with cliches, simplistic solutions, crude stereotypes. "This used to be a hell of a good country."
    "No man, try this instead.
    "You mean that's marijuana? Lord have mercy. Is that what that is?"
    This kind of thing may have seemed fresh and daring at the time, but it's dated today. The idea of Peter Fonda as a sophisticate and role model -- he's just a drifter -- seems a bit weak today. No not weak. Laughable.

    "Oh no man. What you represent to them is freedom."
    "What the hell. That's what it's all about."
    The ending is really an easy way out. When you get beyond the shock it feels slap-dash, thrown together, a flashy nihilistic gesture that might appeal to the Europeans at Cannes because they were in love with their analysis of it, not the actual limited content.

    Easy Rider is an amalgam of B-picture elements. Motorcycles, scary rednecks, wild reveling, general posturing.

    Dave Kehr's thumbnail for The Chicago Reader:
    In the oldest, finest tradition of teenpics, Easy Rider (1969) became a hit with kids mainly because adults found it unwatchable. Director Dennis Hopper borrows from the avant-garde to suggest the LSD experience, and some of the trips have a definite flavor of Kenneth Anger and Maya Deren. The film may be a relic now, but it is a fascinating souvenir—particularly in its narcissism and fatalism—of how the hippie movement thought of itself. This was the same year, remember, that Hopper played a heavy offed by John Wayne in True Grit. With Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson, and Karen Black. R, 94 min.
    It's just not one of my favorites, that's all. I lived on the edge of hippiedom myself and it just seems to me simplistic and corny. It seemed that to me back then, but people found it new and didn't see that side. Part of the excitement was wondering what the audience would think, as Kehr notes in his comment. Now that's gone.

    It is, of course, a readymade perfect comparison in a class with Two-Lane Blacktop. The latter, because it's more empty and abstract, more "modernist" and less self-consciously "counter-cultural," has more artistic purity and meaning today.

    Vincent Canby (the NYTimes movie reviwer of the time) was a "square" critic but it's very interesting what he wrote about Nicholson's character -- that he was so much more real than the others that after he is gone the film "never quite recovers from his loss, even though he has had the rather thankless job of spelling out what I take to be the film's statement (upper case)." This is exactly what I thought when I re-watched Easy Rider. I didn't like anything after Nicholson's death happened, particularly not the Mardi Gras and acid trip sequences. which are "Sixties" in the corniest, most dated sense.

    Here's a thought: Easy Rider is On the Road with its energy and fresh eyes removed, stoned-out and dumbed-down. Easy Rider is a stoner story; On the Road is on speed. Easy Rider has to have Nicholson's character, an alcoholic, as a raisonneur one who articulates the ideas of the piece. And Nicholson's improvised stoned riff on Venusians having invaded earth is better than the whole LSD sequence. Watch for Walter Salles' coming film version of Kerouac's novel. It will be released next year: see the Coming Releases thread.

    Metacritic gives a little thumbnail from TV Guide from a re-release: "A finely observed film but insufficiently developed as a satire of middle America," and this is my thought too. It tells rather than shows, and gives out generalizations that a are too vague. TV Guide's comments are some slick fence-striding: "A must-see, if only once. More notable as a document of its times than as a piece of cinema, EASY RIDER is slack but powerful, sentimental yet scathing, experimental but predictable."

    If Easy Rider is some kind of classic, it's one of those very, very flawed ones, and for somebody who lived through the period like me, it's just hard to watch again because I don't want to see the time summed up in such clichéd terms. Two-Lane Blacktop (which I still have to watch again) I think feels much more real to me, and also stylistically distinctive.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 08-04-2011 at 01:00 PM.

  5. #20
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    Jack's line "Lord have Mercy
    Is that what that is?"

    Is hilarious, and hilarity is never dated. Chaplin & Buster Keaton are testament to that.
    That's sheer comedy- Jack's first toke.
    UFO beamin' back At Ya!
    It's like a cheech and chong moment- years before Up In Smoke.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  6. #21
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    I don't feel that Easy Rider dumbs anything down.
    It's real in a lot of ways. It's of it's time and for all time.
    Like Pennebaker's Monterey Pop.
    Billy and Wyatt could've been heading there, instead of New Orleans.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  7. #22
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    I answered your question to the best of my ability. Niccholson is good,and his character has droll moments. Cheech and Chong jokes do not a great classic make. But Easy Rider is a classic of sorts, and a cultural milestone of a sort.

  8. #23
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    After watching Easy Rider again last week, I like to think of it as a relentlessly vivid and interesting snapshot of America at a time when the deep societal divide in which we still find ourselves was most apparent. It is unfair to expect or demand any movie to sum up its era, even a movie whose success helped to save Hollywood,as Biskind argues. Easy Rider is a beautiful/horrible snapshot of its time as interpreted by Hopper and Fonda, mostly.

  9. #24
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    Have you been watching that Criterion box set Oscar?- the one with Easy Rider & The King of Marvin Gardens in it?
    "America Lost and Found"?
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  10. #25
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    Yes, I have. Great set. Bob, Bert and Steve created a community of filmmaking during this era in order to make smart movies for young people. It worked, but only Head and Easy Rider made money so the ride ended when Hollywood stopped investing in BBS, choosing profit over quality and ushering the blockbuster era. Lots of enjoyable extras on every disc including commentaries from legends like Hopper, Nicholson and Rafelson.

  11. #26
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    Cool. I like sets like this. I saw it at HMV on Blu-Ray while browsing. Haven't seen Head or Drive, He Said.
    I may buy it
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  12. #27
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    I remember rather liking Drive, He Said; had enjoyed the novel by Jeremy Larner.

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