director Dennis Hopper
When I first saw Easy Rider at 18, I was not all that into it. Its cultural relevance, I understood, its cult status, I understood. But I was probably just at an age when this movie couldn’t really speak to me. And a lot of that could have been the soundtrack, which for an 18 year old, looking at and listening to a movie that was also 18 years old, it seemed more an emblem of a time that I was not all that interested in.
Years have passed since then. More than another 18 years at that. Far more.
And now, finally getting back to one of American cinema’s cultural zeitgeist touchstones, I can say, finally, that not only do I get it, but I like it.
I even like the music more now too.
The film really does capture a sense of a counterculture dream of America brought down in a hail of violence and reality. As much as the film never references the Vietnam War, it reflects the disenchantment with the real America, as well as with an alternative America. And the film is freaky genius.
I was born the year Easy Rider came out. And now watching it, I see glimpses of America from a time that I was too young to have understood. Almost all older films that I watch nowadays have aspects of visions of a past. I look to them for all the details and elements that are relics of a world changed and gone. Much of that is the more naturally occurring background of setting, clothing, people who were young or have since died. And some because they offer aspects of commentary on those realities, which can resonate, or not.
I don’t know that I could have had this perspective at 18.