Mardi Gras & Easy Rider

Jack Nickolson in Easy RiderI was listening to the BBC (drive time) today and they said Mardi Gras was over in New Orleans. Made me think about Easy Rider and my “writer’s block” when it comes to reviewing great movies.

In my book, Easy Rider stands out for two reasons: Jack Nickolson and Laszlo Kovacs (cinematographer). Jack did a good job which took him to A-list status. Quite a different thing happened to Laszlo.

Laszlo Kovacs - Easy RiderLaszlo Kovacs had to wear a “I’m not Vilmos” t-shirt, so he doesn’t get confused with Vilmos Zsigmond. Both of them left Hungary in 1956 with footage of the Soviet invasion which they sold in Hollywood.

For a long time “Easy Rider was my least favorite film, interestingly enough, because “Easy Rider” caused me the most heartache and the most bad times and all because I was rejected because of “Easy Rider.” It was just a few years back, you know, I just fell in love with this movie. And especially one element in that movie was so important to me because all these bike riding scenes through the trees and the forest, you know, you had this dappled light and you have this rainbow reflection in the lens, and that was a pretty unique creation at that moment. Nobody had ever done it.

Lens flares were considered a mistake back then. If you have an eye for detail, that’s not the only “mistake” in the movie. In the scene where the choppers are first seen, if you pay close attention, you’ll see a ton of lights getting reflected off the chrome surfaces. That’s another “mistake” that gets the message across in a powerful way.

His camera rig consisted of a “1968 Chevy Impala convertible… and put a half sheet of 4×4 plywood”. That’s why my dream “car” is a Toyota Hilux. It’s the low-budget filmmakers killer rig.

Laszlo recently got four Lifetime Achievement Awards. He’s a living proof of what my photography professor used to say: “underexpose or overexpose, it doesn’t matter as long as it’s consistent. You call this style.”

5 thoughts on “Mardi Gras & Easy Rider

  1. Scott

    Hey, I love the blog. I’m writting a paper on Lazlo for a cinematography class. My Professor, Michael Hofstein, was actualy a student of his. Let me know if you have any other good info or opinions on Lazlo.

  2. Administrator Post author

    I don’t have the pleasure of knowing him personally. I own the “Visions of Light” DVD which has a segment about him and his work on “Easy Rider”.

    I’ve seen the movie several times since then and I must say I love his approach. When you consider the movie was shot on a very modest budget (I think it was $400,000), it’s a true gem.

  3. Roger Morse

    Great Blog, Laszlo was a master of natural lighting much like Conrad Hall. “Easy Rider” is a gem not just because of the budget but also what it said about the time it was made, the 60′s. Laszlo’s Cinematography made “Easy Rider” believable in a way that we feel for the characters.

  4. V.Takacs

    There’s some great footage by the late Laszlo (and friend Vilmos Zsigmond) in his last movie, a documentary called “Torn From The Flag” about the Hungarian uprising of 1956 against the communist regime. They were secretly documenting this bloody revolution, and when they were forced to flee the country across Austria-Hungary border they took with them their ~30,000 feet of film hidden in potato sacks. Crazy. This has become one of my favorite movies and is a must-see film for anyone who loves and appreciates Laszlo’s work.

  5. Janos Szablya

    Laszlo Kovacs who has worked on so many great films we have enjoyed such as Easy Rider and Ghostbusters. Laszlo Kovacs has never received an Oscar for his work. Yet his Cinematography changed the way we see films.
    Laszlo died in 2008, he never received an Oscar for his lifetime of work to bring us the entertainment we so enjoy.
    The Academy owes him a lifetime achievement Oscar, for his work as a Cinematographer and Director of Photography on so many of our favorite films.
    Here is just a partial list of his work, read it it will amaze you that one person could have done so much work of such high quality.
    Mask, Ghost Busters, Torn from the Flag: A Film by Klaudia, Kovacs,
    Two Weeks Notice, Miss Congeniality, Return to Me, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Multiplicity, Copycat, The Scout, Cyndi Lauper: 12 Deadly Cyns… and Then Some, Jack Frost, Ruby Cairo, Radio Flyer, Crackers, The Toy,
    Frances, The Legend of the Lone Ranger, Inside Moves, Heart Beat, Shattered, Say Anything, Little Nikita, Legal Eagles, The Runner Stumbles
    Paradise Alley, F.I.S.T, New York, New York, Nickelodeon, Harry and Walter Go to New York, Baby Blue Marine, Shampoo At Long Last Love, Freebie and the Bean, For Pete’s Sake, Slither, Huckleberry Finn and Paper Moon.
    Just to name a few!!!
    He deserves recognition… start blogging everywhere you can think of if you want copy and past this… only we can make it happen… the fans of his work

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