Film review: Easy Rider (1969)

The filmmakers challenged the Hollywood formula at the time. A film made for young people by young people about “the real America”. Many artists on the soundtrack were from the counter-culture. None of the actors were big stars in 1969. Easy rider is widely regarded as the original road movie.

On the dvd, the Harley Davidson motorcycles are compared to horses in a western:

The film is also about the sadness of the end of the 60s. About two young men experiencing the ultimate freedom while crossing the United States on motorcycles, and became a symbol of free-spirited reaction against society.

Throwing your wristwatch away was an image used to reflect opposition:

It mesmerized critics with it’s perceptive look at America, the plot consists of stories Hopper heard, about people getting stopped at the boarders because of long hair. The film is about how people are scared of free individuals, not so much due to them being free, but because they perceive them to be dangerous.

Peter Fonda’s character Wyatt “Captain America” has a sensitive side, Billy (Dennis Hopper) is more outgoing, while Jack Nicholson’s character George Hanson seems more educated. For Nicholson, Easy Rider was his star making performance. Keeping with the western theme, Wyatt was named after Wyatt Earp and Billy after Billy the Kid.

Wyatt and Billy meet various people on their journey:

Along with other 60s soundtracks like for example Mrs. Robinson, it revolutionized how music is used together with film. Easy Rider used contemporary rock music for the bike sequences, this obviously helped bring in young audiences and created an atmosphere of the times. The words of the songs are part of the story. The music was part of Dennis Hopper’s and Peter Fonda’s record collection.

My personal favourite moment on the soundtrack is probably Born to be wild from the opening credits:

It returned millions of dollars on its $400.000 investment, and has become an iconic piece of American cinema, a cult film. Easy Rider received two Oscar nominations, best original screenplay and best supporting actor (Nicholson). The success of Easy Rider helped spark the New Hollywood phase of filmmaking during the late sixties and early seventies. The major studios realized that money could be made from low-budget films made by avant-garde directors.

According to director Dennis Hopper, “an easy rider lives off a whore, he’s her easy rider, he is the one she loves. She gives money to him, he doesn’t pimp her”

Spoilers on the ending: When Peter Fonda says “we blew it” near the end, we are left to speculate what he means by that? Did they blow the chance to be something different, and did their rebellion fail?
Or did they take it as far as they could? At the end of the day, was their trip a selfish journey, which didn’t really accomplish anything? Having money and freedom does not always equal happiness. According to wikipedia, Wyatt realizes that their search for freedom, while financially successful, was a spiritual failure. I guess if they enjoyed themselves, then at least they had fun!

In comparison, Julie’s learns in the film Three Colors Blue (1993) that she must fill her freedom with something meaningful in order to go on living. Freedom is not worth striving for. We run away from freedom, as soon as we get there.

For film critic Roger Ebert, the film plays today more as a period piece, but it captures so surely the tone and look of that moment in time in the late 60s.

Easy Rider features people smoking dope for real, which was not something that you would normally see actors do!

Among the best road movies out there I think with many colourful characters!

Readers, any thoughts on Easy Rider?




Songs for your iPod

(Fourth part of my Neil Young songathon)

Deep Forbidden Lake – Neil Young

(Can you believe above acoustic track is not on any of his studio albums? The song itself was too good to shelve, so it was released as part of a greatest hits album in the late 70s. Homegrown (1975) was so near to being released that an album sleeve had been created, see above)


Pardon My Heart - Neil Young and Crazy Horse

(Acoustic track from Homegrown (1975), ended up on the album Zuma. They say Homegrown was quite personal, and revealed much of Young's feelings on his failing relationship at the time with actress Carrie Snodgress.)


Hank to Hendrix - Neil Young

(1992's Harvest Moon is one of my all-time favourite albums. So rarely do I find an album were I like almost every song)


You And Me - Neil Young

(Also from the Harvest Moon era)

Any thoughts on the music, readers? Any suggestions for other Neil Young tracks or albums worth highlighting?

What are other people blogging about?

Bonjure Tristesse reviews Meeks Cutoff, I pretty much agree with his thoughts.

dvdinfatuation looks at Easy Rider, a groundbreaking and influential road movie from late 60s. I'll be reviewing it on moviesandsongs365 soon.

For a laugh, read some e-mails from an asshole

Andy Buckle agrees with me on The Illusionist . Andina at inspired ground also shares her views on the animated film.

Central Florida film critic James D is going through his top 10 films, here's his write-up of number 8 2001: A Space Odyssey

Mike’s article over at You Talking To Me? on Fellini's realism and career was rewarding, a director I'm currently getting into.

Chris at Mildly Interesting Films talks about a few books he’s read, and asks for recommendations. He also writes about the atmosphere in Twin Peaks.

Anna and Ronan offer their opinions on Tree of Life (2011), a film I loved. Ronan also reviews another of my favourites of 2011, the Oscar and Golden Globe winning Danish film In A Better World. I review Susanne Bier's film myself here

Love him or hate him, for those who have been following my recent David Lynch blogathon, Lynch’s 2010 short film Lady Blue Shanghai starring Marion Cotillard is on youtube. Also, listen to the winner of the David Lynch music video competition for the song “I Know”, from the upcoming debut solo album by, yes, Lynch himself, believe it or not, out 8th November 2011. And here’s an August interview in Rollingstone about the making of the album and what Lynch is up to these days.

If you like dream pop music (like me), check out this great remix. A music website I just discovered.

Misfortune Cookie a while back wrote an interesting piece on how The Office is a show for our times.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments below!

Film review: A Love Song For Bobby Long (2004)

Ok, I admit I went a bit crazy in taking screen snapshots for this review. One of those rare films I feel improved for me on the second viewing. The story is about misfits in New Orleans, some of the themes are friendship, growing up, being a writer, and alcoholism. The screenplay is based on the novel Off Magazine Street by Ronald Everett Capps.

My favourite scene is when Scarlett Johansson spends the day in the airport reading, together with the beautiful song in the background can bring a tear to my eye.

The film really makes New Orleans look so beautiful and I felt like jumping on a plane and visiting. Though watching this indie makes you feel like you are already there. Credit must be given to cinematographer Elliot Davis for creating the atmosphere. Interestingly, Davis was also responsible for the cinematography in the first Twilight film, which I visually liked quite a bit.

Oh, and you get to see John Travolta dancing! An atypical role for Travolta, some of the best acting I’ve ever seen by him, should have been nominated. The film was not given much love by critics, and didn't do well at the box office. Maybe it will gain a cult following on dvd? One of the negative reviews pointed out Johansson and Macht are both too gym-toned and poised for their loser characters.

I like the little details sprinkled into the story, which you have to pause the movie to properly notice. Has some quotes from different writers that can give you food for thought.

In the behind the scenes documentary on the dvd, director/writer Shainee Gabel says the city of New Orleans was the inspiration for making the film, the beauty of decay. Every few blocks there was a church and a corner bar with regulars, and a great tradition of oral history that they would tell you their life story. She thinks romanticism has become an illness for the broken character Bobby Long (Travolta), books, and writing have become more beautiful, exciting and romantic than his real life, and his problem with alcohol feeds that. Bobby has created a fantasy world about what he is and what he was, to the point where he’s forgotten what he’s lost, and he’s forgotten what was important to him. In the movie he is forced to remember, which is both a happy and painful experience.

The director thinks that washed-up Lawson Pines (Gabriel Macht with the beard in the screen shots above) is someone who doesn’t have a lot of confidence, who didn’t grow up with a lot of support, and when he grew up, he had a professor who took an interest in his career and cared (Bobby Long).

As Roger Ebert notes, its unusual to see an American film take its time, and remarkable to listen to dialogue that assumes the audience is well-read.



Readers, any thoughts on A LOVE SONG FOR BOBBY LONG ?

Songs for your iPod

(3rd part of my Neil Young "songathon")

Motion Pictures - Neil Young

(A song about movies, perfect for my blog, don't you think)


See The Sky About To Rain - Neil Young

(1974's On the Beach is maybe my second favourite album of his, of the ones I've got to so far)


Ambulance Blues - Neil Young

(Love album artwork, wonder if they actually buried a car, or just a part of?)

Readers, any thoughts on this week's music?

Film review: The Double Life Of Veronique (1991)

Review intended for those who have already watched the film, spoilers may occur.

A French film directed by Polish director Kieslowski, possibly one of the trickiest of his films to understand I think.

The story is about two identical looking women called Weronika and Veronique. Weronika lives in Poland. Veronique lives in France. They are both played by Irene Jacob, and both have talent as a singer. A tour bus from France travels through Krakow, and Weronika spots Veronique, who is her doppelganger, Weronika smiles, and it seems evident in her curious gaze she would like to speak to her, if she had not seen her, would both women's lives have been different you wonder. The comparisons between the two women in appearance and spirit being just a series of amazing coincidences is one interpretation.

The first third of the film takes place in Poland, the remaining 2/3 in France. The mistakes the Polish girl makes, the French Veronique senses intuitively, the same story is changing or being revised. They become one person on a spiritual level, Veronique has learned from Weronika's mistakes, even though they have never spoken to each other. Two souls, but the same thoughts, what is strange is that distance is the key to the unification. They are far away, but spiritually very close. Perhaps Kieslowski is saying we as humans are all one big family and not so different on the inside, no matter if you are Polish, French, or whatever. Or a message could be that you should listen to what your body is telling you in the case of Weronika, and not push yourself too hard.

There is a certain mystery whether a double exists. If we look long enough would we find that double? And even if we found such a person, would we even want to spend time with them or would it be too awkward? Is it comforting to know that another people in the world might have the same thoughts, ambitions and appearance, so we are not alone, or do we prefer to imagine that we are completely unique? These are interesting philosophical questions that Kieslowski’s film got me thinking about, in fact while writing this very review.

Talking of doppelgangers, I think its not just a physical double the story is hinting at, but that mental inner doubles are out there, who feel or think like we do. I personally would much rather meet the later ( :

For James at cinemasights, one interpretation of the film is that the two women are in fact the same woman who exist in two parallel universes. As the train rolls through the city we see the exterior world through the small ball, which flips the image upside down. This creates the idea of a universe running parallel to the one we are observing. The reflection of her in the window also indicates a double.

The Double Life Of Veronique was about something that usually you can't film - intuitions, perceptions, all this inner landscape of sensation, Irene Jacob recalls (...) these little things which in the end, are the main driving force behind what we do, what we end up doing. They are not easy to portray or film. Irene Jacob talks about in an interview: We talk about things we have done. But really, daily life is just as full of feelings, of premonitions... of solitude sometimes... of intense moments of completeness. You can feel very complete, but then sometimes, feel empty, hollow. And suddenly feel very receptive to all that happens each day, to all the little things that happen outside ourselves, ultimately. But Kieslowski, she says, refused to discuss the underlying themes of the film with her. That would have meant speaking about metaphysics and chance and doubles. He told me that because the film could be taken on such a poetic level we had to be very concrete. For him, metaphysics and chance was something always there in banal, everyday life - a piece of light, the rain, she recalls. His theory was that if you said to people that you already knew what the film was about, nobody would offer any suggestions.

It was no accident that Kieslowski's late features, from The Double Life Of Veronique onward, have women as protagonists. As he told the author Danusia Stok: "Women feel things more acutely, have more presentiments, greater sensitivity, greater intuition... The Double Life Of Veronique couldn't have been made about a man.” Kieslowski attempts to show the world from a woman’s viewpoint.

Must be tough to be the boyfriend of Weronika or Veronique, they both feel a connection to another person, and not so much the lover. Alexandre, Veronique’s lover, is held at a distance, like in any relationship between people we can never get inside each others head. He tries to reach her and makes her into a piece of art by portraying her in his new puppet story. There is a dream of wanting to be joined spiritually, which perhaps lifts the body and soul above the earthly circumstance, is this achieveable in fleeting moments through art or other situations? Alexandre wants to know her, and Veronique already has it to a certain extent, but doesn't fully understand the connection with Weronika, and nither do we the audience comprehend this. Alexandre is also an ambiguous character, does he really want a relationship with Veronique, or is she merely a jigsaw piece in his current artistic venture?

Roger Ebert thinks it’s a puzzle not to be solved, instead a poetic overture on the power of senses and sensibilities, about seeing oneself at a distance.

A very interesting idea I think to perceive yourself from a distance, something we do when we hear our own voice recorded and don’t recognize it, or see ourselves on film when others have videotaped our body language. Can be an eye-opening or surprising experience. We have an inner perception of how we are perceived, which may or may not match how others perceive us. If there is a mismatch of the inner and outer we can feel misunderstood. Being able to see yourself from a distance, or asking others how you appear, can help in making people comfortable around you, because then you sense for example how you behave in a group situation. Would we change anything in our lives, if we watched a big brother film of a day in the life of X? I don’t know. Depends on if we are happy with our lives, or want a change. Perceiving yourself in such a way sounds very narcissistic, so perhaps it’s good we can’t watch ourselves! There will never be a common perception of any given person anyway, everyone will have a subjective opinion about someone, which is constantly evolving, depending on many factors, how well they know him or her, and if they can relate, etc.

Veronique senses there is another individual like herself, and she intuitively decides to act differently than Weronika did, and stop singing. If we see a friend or a movie character in a difficult spot, in many cases its easier to give advice and suggest a change, than it is to alter our own life. It’s interesting to contemplate if some people imagine a fictitious “other self” to try and see how they might conceivably act in certain situations. A dress rehearsal to real life without risk. Weronika is such a person I think for Veronique, a similar person she can project her own feeling onto, who may or may not really exist, and on an internal level mirror herself in, an avatar? If Veronique did continue singing, then the worst-case scenario is what happened to Weronika. Sort of imagining or predicting certain situations in your head is very difficult to do, but in the case of Veronique she knows herself so well that she can foresee a problem, a very unique talent or whatever you want to call her gift. I think the smartest people can foresee many steps ahead, and avoid disappointment in that way. If you know what you are capable of, then you avoid what you can't do I guess. Then again, if you shy away from pushing yourself to the limit, life may become boring, if you don't challenge yourself enough.

From interview book Kieslowski on Kieslowski: “You can describe something that maybe doesn’t happen on screen, but which by virtue of the music exists. It’s interesting to bring something to life, which is not in the actual film or the actual music. By combining film and music, a certain atmosphere arises.”
“Restriction, necessary restrictions and necessary compromise, evokes a certain imagination and agility and inspires an energy, which puts you in a position to invent original solutions and ideas for the script”
“when your heart stops, the bar on the machine is completely horizontal. And one time Veronique holds her shoelace tightly and realizes what this means”

“Veronique is constantly having to decide, if she should follow the path of the Polish Weronika or not; if she should give in to her artistic instinct and the excitement, the art contains, or if she should give in to love and all that it entails.”
“I imagine that Veronique doesn’t spend the rest of her life with Alexandre. You see her cry near the end. She cries, when he reads to her, and the glance towards him does not suggest love, because in reality he has used her. He has used her for his own personal gain. I think she is a lot wiser at the end of the film, than at the beginning. Alexandre makes her aware that there is something more, that the other Weronika really existed. It’s him, who discovers the photo. Veronique hadn’t even noticed it among the dozens she had. The photo caught his eye, and maybe he understood what she could not comprehend. He understands and uses the photo. The moment he uses it, she understands, that he probably was not the man she desperately had been waiting for, because in the same instance this was revealed, something of hers, which was terribly intimate, as long as it wasn’t spoken of, was used. And when it had been used, it was no longer hers; and when it was no longer hers, there was nothing mysterious about it. It was not something personal anymore. It had become a public secret.”

Superstition, prophecy, premonition, intuition, dreaming – all this constitutes a human beings inner life; and all of this area is the most difficult thing to capture on film. Even though I know it can’t be captured, how ever hard I try, then I still work in that direction to get as close to it, as my ability allows me to.”

“If film really aims to achieve something – this is how I see it anyway – it is for a person to find themselves in the material.”
“There’s a great story I was told by an American journalist. He read a novel by Cortazar about a main character, who’s name, surname and life was identical to the journalist’s. If this was a coincidence or not the journalist couldn’t say, so he wrote to Cortazar and told him, that he had read the book, and suddenly discovered, that he was reading a book about himself. (…) The journalist told me about the reply, where Cortazar was excited about, what had happened, he had never met the journalist, never seen him, never heard of him. And he was overjoyed by having created a character, who existed in real life. It was in connection with Veronika, that the American journalist told me about this.”

Cinematographer Slawomir Idziak was interviewed:

The Double Life Of Veronique started with a very funny story. I was shooting a film in Berlin when Krzysztof called me one day. He wanted to meet, so we met in Berlin. He told me the following story, ‘I'd like to make a film about a phenomenon I read about recently in the paper. When they come up with a kind of rat poison in the US, European rats know about it the very next day, though they have no way of knowing about it that quickly. It's an odd phenomenon and I'd like to make a movie about it.’
In the particular case of The Double Life Of Veronique, the most important thing was Krzysztof's assertion, based on his declaration that he wasn't interested in the obvious differences between the two countries, what's used in every film in the so-called ‘West’. All this he deemed to be irrelevant. He was interested in a central character who, regardless of place, regime or politics, is a person with all the same problems. He wanted these two worlds to be identical, to be the same.

Veronique is an example of a film where a director expected his artistic partner, his cinematographer, to suggest a look for the film. The work on the set always started with his rehearsals after which he would ask me how I'd like to film it. Sometimes, of course, he could see a scene differently and disagree with me and, naturally, his decisions were final. But, as a rule, the cinematographer suggested how a scene should look. The film ended up having a green/yellow colour.

Both the use of colour, and daily activities of a sensitive twentysomething female French girl may have influenced Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amelie (2001). Spoiler: David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive could also be compared, in that Weronika could be Veronique's dream, a dream which Veronique learns a lot from. Could the title The Double Life Of Veronique be hinting it is Veronique's dream?

Much like the Three Colours Trilogy, classical music plays an important atmospheric role, so lovers of that type of music are in for a treat. The scene of an old person struggling along and being watched is also similar in The Double Life Of Veronique and the Three Colours Trilogy, and connects the theme of the films. The dual role of Weronika and Veronique gave Irene Jacob a Best Actress award in Cannes.

I love the visual imagination and attention to detail, and certainly a very interesting film to interpret. Notice I call it a film, not a movie. And to me holds up to quite a few viewings, which is obviously a sign of a film of high quality.

Readers, I'd love to hear any comments on The Double Life Of Veronique!



interview transcripts: Kieslowski’s world and book Kieslowski on Kieslowski

Songs for your iPod

(2nd part of my Neil Young songathon. From the 60s/70s this week)

Sugar Mountain - Neil Young


Old Man - Neil Young


Borrowed Tune - Neil Young

Readers, any thoughts on this week's music?

Songs for your iPod

(Below are three songs from the 90s. Will post more Neil Young over the next 3 weeks! My goal is to illuminate some lesser-known of his tracks)

Natural Beauty – Neil Young

(One of my favourites from my best-loved Neil Young album, Harvest Moon. I previously shared the title track, which I also love)


Safeway Cart - Neil Young and Crazy Horse

(This track and Trans Am below are from his not-so-famous 1994 album Sleeps With Angels)


Trans Am – Neil Young and Crazy Horse

Readers, any thoughts on this week's music?

Film review: Three colors Red (1994)

Review is intended for people who have already watched the film. Spoilers may occur.

A chance friendship develops between Kern, a disillusioned retired judge, and a young woman, Valentine, her hopes and dreams intact. His dog escapes and is the reason they meet by accident. Perhaps the film is about how much of our life is decided by coincidence.

Both Valentine and the judge need to find their way in life, he makes pessimistic comments that are sort of a cry for help, he’s lonely and needs someone who will listen and encourage him to start living again. She asks what she can do to help, and the judge say, “just be there”. This is where the theme brotherhood comes into play, she can read between the lines his negative attitude is due to an unhappy love life.

According to actress Irene Jacob in the dvd extras, Kieslowski wanted to rediscover through the two characters that moment when the world is at your feet and everything is possible. The story is about if you don’t feel love, then nothing matters. Kieslowski doesn’t take a moral standpoint and doesn’t talk about the message of his films in interviews, he prefers to let the audience make up their own mind.

Like the characters feel like voyeurs, looking into other peoples lives, we the audience are in the same boat, studying the movie characters, and can pass our own personal judgements on events, like Valentine reacts to the judge’s surveillance of neighbours. I couldn't help feeling sorry for the lonely judge, even if he is spying on his neighbours.

Windows are a central theme in Kieslowski’s work. Blue (1993) begins with Julie breaking a window in anger and despair. Red ends with Kern’s window being broken, he doesn’t repair the glass, which could be interpreted as Kern’s desire to re-enter the world.

Valentine’s boyfriend Michel only exists on the phone, we never see him during the running time. A way of indicating he is only a shadow of a man, and not vital in Valentine’s life?

Valentine insists on the goodness in other people, which has a positive effect on Kern. On the flip side, Kern acts as a father figure to Valentine, through his words of wisdom and experience, she can learn things about life and herself. His behaviour and attitude confront Valentine with a different side of existence, which she is not used to from her life as a photo model.

From interview book Kieslowski on Kieslowski: “Valentine dearly wants to think of others, but she keeps thinking of others from her own perspective. She can’t do anything else. The audience can’t help it either. That’s the way it is. This poses the question: Even when we give something of ourselves, don’t we do it to appear better in our own eyes?”
“Valentine ought to have been born 40 years earlier or the judge 40 years later, they would have made a good couple. And they probably would have been happy together. I would think they have suited each other.”

Visually the film is technically very beautiful, for me Blue is the most astetically pleasing to the eye of the Three Colours trilogy, but in my opinion Red undoubtedly comes close in matching Blue in terms of use of colour and imaginative cinematography. I found the characters in Kieslowski's White to be the most interesting, somehow Blue And Red don't leave me with as many unanswered questions or emotional impact as White did.

Kern could arguably be Kieslowski the artist in disguise. A person withdrawn from the world who secretly monitors it, in a detached isolated position of being omnipotent and yet powerless. Kern is God, but also a living dead. He spies on people, although this doesn’t make him truly happy. Kern wanted change, and so did Kieslowski, it was his last film as a director.

I didn’t like the opening credits. Or the ending of Red, the boating accident, which I found to be completely unrealistic and didn’t seem to fit with the atmosphere of the rest of the film. Undoubtedly thoughtful closing, but sort of absurd and ironic.
Even so, the life imitates art red background right near the end by the water was a poetic moment. Was the director merely showing that art can mirror life, or is there a deeper meaning? Was it a coincidence who survived? Does fate play a part? Or is Kieslowski teasing his audience?

Readers, any thoughts on Red, and how do you understand the ending?

Next week, look out for my review of Kieslowski's The Double Life of Veronique (1991)



What are other people blogging about?

Andina at inspiredground weighs in on Fight Club, her reaction was interesting to read.

Several bloggers review Beauty and The Beast (1946):
Bonjour tristesse , dvdinfatuation Not just movies and Cinemasights

Similar to my current blogathon, Andy Buckle is also reviewing the films of Kieslowski.

Alex at boycottingtrends gets caught up in the excitement of The Tree of Life, which even with a flaw or two he finds entrancing and admires for its awesome beauty.

In his midweek mumblings, Custard shares advice on how to get people to visit your movie blog.

Colin at picknmix flix gives the thumbs up to Barneys Version, a film starring Paul Giamatti of Sideways fame. I also happened to find it memorable. Has to be said not everyone is liking it, seriousfilm didn’t(see comments)

Ronan at filmplicity goes down memory lane regarding that old MGM lion and his favourite studio logos, and asks which logos were used as part of the intro to a movie? (i.e. Paramount mountain in opening of Indiana Jones)

Movie Guy Steve at 1001plus gives Lars Von Trier’s Breaking the waves (1996) the reviewing treatment, a film guaranteed to divide audiences.

Jandy kindly reveals her best albums of 2010, quite a few overlaps with me, and a couple of albums/EP’s I didn’t know to seek out.

Nostra at myfilmreviews takes a look at a music documentary on sampling, which I incidentally found on YouTube and enjoyed.

Soundopinions, a music podcast I recently discovered, discuss their top albums of 2011 so far. If you’re in a hurry, the list of albums and songs featured are in print.

Are some of the links useful to you? Let me know what you think

Have a good day

from Chris

Songs for your iPod

(Their new 2010 album did nothing for me, so here are some tunes from their back catalogue)

Endless Dream - Conjure One


Sleep (Solarstone´s Afterhours Mix ) - Conjure One


Years - Conjure One

Readers, any thoughts on this week's music?


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