‘The Bikeriders’ set to screen at AMFA

Tom Hardy plays the founder and elder statesman of a Chicago-based motorcycle club in Jeff Nichols “The Bikeriders.”
Tom Hardy plays the founder and elder statesman of a Chicago-based motorcycle club in Jeff Nichols “The Bikeriders.”

"The Bikeriders," Jeff Nichols' new film inspired by classic work of New Journalism, will be screened as part of the Arkansas Cinema Society's Filmland event at the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts on Oct. 15.

Nichols will participate in a live Q&A after the screening.

"The Bikeriders," which was greeted with rapturous praise after its premiere at the Telluride Film Festival in August, is a fictional story that follows a Midwestern motorcycle gang called the Chicago Vandals in 1965. It is inspired by Danny Lyon's 1968 thin (less than 100-page) photo book with brief anecdotes of the same title. Brooklyn native Lyon was a 21-year-old student at the University of Chicago and a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, when he began riding with and photographing the Chicago Outlaws Motorcycle Club in 1963. Over the next four years, Lyon documented the activities of the club, riding a 650-cc Triumph and shooting with a Nikon Reflex and a Rolleiflex.

While Lyon's images were mainly black-and-white, Nichols' film, which stars Austin Butler, Boyd Holbrook, Tom Hardy, Jodie Comer, Damon Herriman and frequent Nichols contributor Michael Shannon, is reportedly an autumnal fever dream. Mike Faist, the breakout star from Steven Spielberg's "West Side Story," portrays the documentarian Lyon. Some of the interview transcripts for the original are reportedly interpolated into the film's dialogue, though the context may be shifted.

"It just started as a feeling," Nichols explained to Drew Taylor of The Wrap. "There's definitely a vibe to all my films, but this one more than anything is this. It's a feeling and it's built differently from the other films. The other films were built around an emotion, and it's easy to be like, well, feelings, emotions, what's the difference? Well, for me, emotions are like this very specific personal emotional reaction to a thing, and this is different from that. There's a lot of emotionality in 'The Bikeriders,' but the impetus for it was looking at these photographs and getting just the sense of a time and of a place, and to take that a step further, a subculture that was very specific to this time and very specific to this place that is now gone. Now, obviously, biker culture still exists, biker gangs still exist. The club that Danny photographs still exists. It's not really what I'm talking about."

Early reviews have been exceptional; with Comer's performance as the outsider-turned-club moll Kathy singled out as award-worthy.

"Nichols has made an utterly unfashionable romance, one that revolves around working-class white men -- a drama that, in its indirect way, challenges assumptions and easy judgment," Sheri Linden wrote in her review of the film for The Hollywood Reporter. " ... Nichols' filmography is still young, and still showing no signs of settling in to a stylistic signature -- or rut."

"The Bikeriders" opens in theaters nationwide on Dec. 1 by 20th Century Studios.

Tickets go on sale soon. Visit filmland.org for more info.

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