It might be raining on the Cannes parade, and security out of hand, some of the films, well, but there’s still one bright note on a gray, rain-spitting Riviera first festival Friday. The bike of the film, Easy Rider, forty one years old this week, is back at the film festival that gave the film life, once more at the festival where the film and cast – Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson and Karen Black earned a vital critical reprieve from the Cannes film festival. In fact, it sent the film into orbit.
The master builder of the easy rider Captain America replica, Jack Lepler, is here with the bike as well. The secrets behind the film, the legend behind the story (what Jack “doesn’t know” he isn’t telling, not about the bike nor the original film, no how. ‘It aint worth saying nor knowing,’ he says with a wink.
So the sequel, Easy Rider II, has that bike back on the Cote D’Azur, at Cannes again.
If it weren’t for the 22nd Cannes Film festival – the festival after 1968, the year students and filmmakers with Godard and Truffaut stopped Cannes and France in its tracks – the original Easy Rider might not have seen the light of day. American distributors would not touch the film, said they were embarrassed by it. More fool them, because this game-changer budgeted at $400,000 took $60 million at the box office. Easy Rider is a large part of the reason behind independent American cinema’s regeneration of Hollywood’s power in the late 1960s, a movement that took a tired LA studio-system filled with failure and excess and lit a fire under it.
And it was Cannes that gave the story of the bike its traction, a new way its market tread. Easy Rider was a key independent production – turning a savvy creative low-budget know-how into a creative trend that saved Hollywood from a crippling decline. More power to Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper. More power to Easy Rider sequels.