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Five Easy Pieces [Blu-ray]
(Bob Rafelson, 1970)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: Columbia Pictures Corporation and/or BBS Productions
Video:Criterion Collection - Spine #546
Release Date: June 30th, 2015
NOTE: This Criterion stand-alone Blu-ray release is virtually the exact same disc (same a/v transfer and extras, different menus, their standard transparent keep case etc.) as found in their America Lost and Found: The BBS Story reviewed HERE. So we will reproduce some of that review here:
'BBS' stands for the production team of Bert Schneider, Robert (Bob) Rafelson and Steve Blauner.
Region: 'A'-locked (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)
Case: Custom Blu-ray-height case. 6 Bookstyle flap cardboard cases including a 114-page book featuring color photos and essays by critics J. Hoberman, Chuck Stephens, Matt Zoller Seitz, Kent Jones, Graham Fuller, and Mark Le Fanu - inside a sturdy box (see images below).
Release date: November 23rd, 2010
Description: Like the rest of America, Hollywood was ripe for revolution in the late sixties. Cinema attendance was down; what had once worked seemed broken. Enter Bob Rafelson, Bert Schneider, and Steve Blauner, who knew that what Hollywood needed was new audiences—namely, young people—and that meant cultivating new talent and new ideas. Fueled by money from their invention of the superstar TV pop group the Monkees, they set off on a film-industry journey that would lead them to form BBS Productions, a company that was also a community. The innovative films produced by this team between 1968 and 1972 are collected in this box set—works that now range from the iconic (Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, The Last Picture Show) to the acclaimed (The King of Marvin Gardens) to the obscure (Head; Drive, He Said; A Safe Place), all created within the studio system but lifted right out of the countercultural id.
Disc Size: 43,818,029,179 bytes / Stand alone = 48,862,075,485 bytes
Feature Size: 29,034,283,008 bytes / Stand alone feature = 29,034,283,008 bytes (exact same)
Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
English (SDH), none
• Audio commentary featuring director Bob Rafelson and
interior designer Toby Rafelson
from 2009 about BBS featuring critic David Thomson and
historian Douglas Brinkley (27:38)
• Liner notes booklet with an essay by critic Kent Jones
Description: Following Jack Nicholson’s breakout supporting turn in Easy Rider, director Bob Rafelson devised a powerful leading role for the new star in the searing character study Five Easy Pieces. Nicholson plays the now iconic cad Bobby Dupea, a shiftless thirtysomething oil rigger and former piano prodigy immune to any sense of romantic or familial responsibility, who returns to his childhood home to see his ailing, estranged father, blue-collar girlfriend (Karen Black) in tow. Moving in its simplicity and gritty in its textures, Five Easy Pieces is a lasting example of early 1970s American alienation.
Jack Nicholson was never going to be another Jimmy Stewart. As early as
his prefame days (in 1960s TV Westerns and Roger Corman cheapies), there
was too much attitude, too much snarl.
Jack Nicholson plays the poignantly named Robert Eroica Dupea, an angry, insubordinate smartmouth precariously employed as an oil-rigger out west, and trapped in a toxic relationship with Rayette (Karen Black), a diner waitress and would-be country singer. It is only when we learn that his father is dying, and Robert must travel back to the family home in Washington state for a last goodbye, that we learn that Robert is in retreat from his poisoned vocation: once a brilliantly promising classical pianist, he has angrily given up music, having failed to reach the standards set by his father and by himself. So Robert and poor, uncomprehending Rayette are guests in his ramshackle family home chock-full of decaying and defeated musical talent, like something from Dickens or Chekhov. His pianist sister Partita, played by Lois Smith, is sabotaging her own career with a bad habit of humming along to her own performance in the recording studio, like Glenn Gould. Robert attempts to seduce his brother's girlfriend Catherine (Susan Anspach) by playing her an easy piece by Chopin, and angrily declares he played it better, more valuably and with more integrity when he was eight years old.Excerpt from Peter Bradshaw at The Guardian located HER
NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
Image /Audio: This is one of Jack's most memorable performances and fittingly the image quality may be the best in the America Lost and Found Boxset. The transfer is again advertised as '...supervised by director of photography László Kovács' and it looks beautiful with vibrant colors, strong detail in close-ups and a reasonable thickness and depth authentically representing film. I don't have much more to add - the very high bitrate supports the dual-layered transfer with an impressively flawless appearance. Blu-ray should always look this 'true'. Contrast is at Criterion's high standard and Five Easy Pieces visuals are immaculate. Audio is a modest linear PCM mono track at 1152 kbps faithfully representing the film. It's dutifully flat but has some perceived depth in a few instances of Robert's (Jack's) aggression. Dialogue is consistent and clean. This is a sweet a/v transfer doing justice to the masterpiece film - kudos to Criterion.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
Supplements don't disappoint with a new audio commentary featuring director Bob Rafelson and interior designer Toby Rafelson. Soul Searching in “Five Easy Pieces,” is a 10-minute video piece from 2009 with Rafelson discussing the writing and development of Five Easy Pieces. Most interesting is The BBStory, a 2009 documentary about the BBS era, with Rafelson, actors Jack Nicholson, Karen Black and Ellen Burstyn, and directors Peter Bogdanovich and Henry Jaglom, among others reminiscing about the ground-breaking films of BBS Productions. It runs over 45-minutes in length. We also get a 1/2 hour documentary from 2009 about BBS featuring critic David Thomson and historian Douglas Brinkley. There are some audio excerpts from a 1976 AFI interview with Rafelson and theatrical trailer and teasers from Five Easy Pieces.
About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.
Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who
focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I
find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be
it, but film will always be my first love and I list my
favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze