Monday, July 21, 2014

Five Easy Pieces (1970)

One of the best films I have seen in a long time. Robert Eroica Dupea (Jack Nicholson in one of his finest and most understated performances) is a man who finds his life divided between where he has come from and where he is going, a perfect metaphor for a country divided -- between economic and class barriers, between changing traditions and ways of life, between the old and the new.

As the son of an upper-class family in Washington state, Dupea left a promising career as a concert pianist in order to drop out and work on oil rigs and experience what America had to offer beyond the comfortable but unsatisfying bubble in which he lived. However, by the time we catch up with him, he is starting to become disenchanted with his new life in rural Southern California, strongly questioning his decision after his girlfriend (Karen Black) unexpectedly becomes pregnant and his best friend is arrested for a past crime. This leads him back to re-connect with his family, but he soon finds he is unable to reconcile his new experiences with their ideas and attitudes. Dupea is perpetually rootless, perpetually in search of the experiences that will give his life meaning, in search of answers he may never find.

Bob Rafelson's direction, sensitive and restrained, achieves a totality of style and tone that stands as some of the finest work in American film from this period. Stylistically, the film is rooted in the naturalistic approach prevalent at the time, and remains one of the key works of the American New Wave. Cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs brings his distinctive eye in capturing the breathtaking Southwestern landscapes and skies at dusk, the subdued atmosphere of the Pacific Northwest, and other locations throughout. Like the previous year's EASY RIDER, also lensed by Kovacs, the choice and presentation of the locations are absolutely essential to understanding the film. FIVE EASY PIECES is a film about America, about the road, the drive resulting from dissatisfaction with our circumstances, the sense of moving forward to an uncertain future and the experiences we encounter along the way.

1 comment:

PJB said...

"the drive resulting from dissatisfaction with our circumstances, the sense of moving forward to an uncertain future"- sounds like right now- it's paralleling the life of someone I know. Remember that dissatisfaction will pay off better with drive rather than hopelessness.