Director: Bob Rafelson
Cast includes: Jack Nicholson, Karen Black
With Introduction by Ben Newell
98 mins / 1970 / USA

To kick off our new Americana season, staff member Ben Newell has chosen Five Easy Pieces starring Jack Nicholson and Karen Black.

On its original release the film turned director, Bob Rafelson, into the leader of the so-called American New Wave. Jack Nicholson demonstrated such talent and power that it helped establish him as the prime actor of his generation. And the film is a beautiful lesson in cinematography that confirmed Laszlo Kovas as one of the best directors of photography in the business. Five Easy Pieces is considered to be the quintessential film of the beginning of the seventies.

Rejecting his cultured upper-class background as a classical pianist, Robert Dupea (Jack Nicholson) opts for a blue-collar existence, working in a California oil field and spending time with his waitress girlfriend, Rayette (Karen Black). But when Robert discovers that his father is gravely ill, he wants to reunite with his estranged family in the state of Washington. He and Rayette take a road trip that brings the two paths of his life to an uncomfortable intersection.

"The reason I chose this film is because when I was around 16 it was the first film I recognised where younger filmmakers began to emerge as unique voices who got the opportunity to tell complex and intense stories that Hollywood would never have made in the '50s and '60s. Prior to this I had feasted on a diet of Hitchcock, Douglas Sirk and John Ford.

Five Easy Pieces came in the early days of the movement and perfectly encapsulates it. It focuses on character over plot and isn't afraid to show us a lead character who is not easy to like. Complex, brimming with rebellion and with an astonishing performance of heartbreaking intensity from a young Jack Nicholson. All the ingredients that prised open the eyes of my young self in the North of Scotland and opened the doors of what more the American New Wave had to offer..." - Ben Newell

This film forms part of our new Americana series, celebrating our favourite offerings from across the pond. More info and a programme of screenings, live music and Q&As to be announced soon.

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