One of our favorite films, FIVE EASY PIECES (1969) is a paean to soul searching in America directed by Bob Rafaelson and starring the inimitable Jack Nicholson. A work of art worth taking a look at it, “Pieces” is a brilliant character study of a talented classical musician with great promise and a secret who hides his identity and runs away from his wealthy family to work on an oil rig.
Nicholson’s “Bobby” meanders through a uniquely American landscape searching for identity but caught between Nixon’s “silent majority” and the counter cultural revolution roiling below the surface. His tensely strung performance is so riveting precisely because you don’t know what Nicholson is going to do next; reminding us of Amin Maalouf’s quote “…a person’s identity is like a pattern drawn on a tightly stretched parchment. Touch just one part of it, just one allegiance, and the whole person will react, the whole drum will sound.” But Nicholson isn’t merely being unpredictable. On screen he is living in the present of being lost and there aren’t many actors who can do what Nicholson did; hold every moment as an open ended question, seek the next moment, but never land. It is a dazzling feat. And walking the tightrope with him was legendary American New Wave cinematographer Lazlo Kovacs who played with natural light and composition in a way that feels like a cross between documentary and poetic portraiture. Neither “Bobby” nor the narrative of the film ever settles down; a character lost in the fantasy of rebellion where the simple answer is always to run away toward the unknown and never stop running. What’s most remarkable about this 48 year old indie was its prescience; suggesting that in America we can assume identity and lose it as easily as jumping a logging truck to the next city.
Here’s a really cool interview with Nicholson and Rafaelson about the film’s most iconic scene set in a diner in Eugene Oregon.
And here’s the scene.
Dig into some 8MM behind the scenes footage of Nicholson and Karen Black lounging on set and waiting for their close ups.
And if you’d like a plain omelette, no potatoes, tomatoes instead, a cup of coffee and wheat toast the next time you come to Antique just remember our rule, “No substitutions!”
Written by Joseph Castelo.
Joseph Castelo, born in Brooklyn, bred in Jersey. His family has been in business in Hoboken for 60 years and Joe can still remember the smell of sawdust on the floor of The Clam Broth House. Joe is an entrepreneur and film maker. You can catch his latest film, “The Preppie Connection” on Netflix.