• From James Benning’s Easy Rider

On Friday at 8 PM the Nightingale will host the Chicago premiere of Easy Rider (2012), a sort-of remake of the counterculture classic by famed experimental filmmaker James Benning (One Way Boogie Woogie, Landscape Suicide, Deseret). Like much of Benning’s work, this Rider is a landscape film that meditates on places as a means of considering the society around them. “I divided the original film into scenes,” the director has written, “and then replaced each scene with one shot filmed at the original location. My Easy Rider tries to find today’s counterculture (if one exists) by replacing the 60s music with music that I listen to today.”

This screening was organized by Gabe Klinger, who brought Joe Dante’s The Movie Orgy to the Nightingale last fall. Klinger is currently at work on a documentary about Benning and fellow director Richard Linklater—both of whom were star athletes in high school, it turns out. (You can read his account of the project’s origins here.) Benning’s biography may be unique among avant-garde filmmakers. Not only did he once aspire to be a baseball player, he also taught high school math. Jonathan Rosenbaum noted this in a 2002 Reader essay about Benning’s “California Trilogy,” adding, “passion for neat, symmetrical patterns is central to his work… he apparently wants to give images, sounds, and certain verbal classifications the uncluttered purity of numbers and mathematical concepts.” I never thought I’d mention Easy Rider and “uncluttered purity” in the same piece.