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“Five Easy Pieces” Was Conservative 70s Hollywood

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Posted on August 9 2010 10:15 pm
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By John Patterson

Five Easy Pieces Five Easy Pieces. Photograph: Allstar

Forty years on, Bob Rafelson’s Five Easy Pieces – the movie that made Jack Nicholson, as Robert Dupea, a Pacific-Northwestern dropout who loses himself among Texas wildcatters – stands as a truly protean experience. The first time I saw it, I wanted to be the same kind of self-absorbed, mercurially charming asshole Jack played (indulge me, I was 13); second time, not so much; third time, the cast infuriated me; fourth time, I thought the blue-collar characters were insultingly one-dimensional; fifth time, I got over it; and last week, we met in the middle, shook hands, and it felt almost like a masterpiece.

It was shot while Nixon was secretly bombing Cambodia in the winter of 1969-70, and released in September 1970, after the summer that saw the Kent State shootings in May, and the retaliatory “hard-hat riots” on Wall Street four days later (a proto-Tea Party moment when union construction workers stomped student longhairs protesting the shootings). On first release the movie had vague, not entirely coincidental, links with that odd cultural spasm; its posters featured hard-hats, by then a loaded rightwing symbol, including one sported by Jack. And something of that forgotten middle class-v-working class confrontation can be detected in the movie’s ideas about class, a third-rail topic rarely dealt with in American cinema, then or now.

Read more at the Guardian UK

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