17NASModule1LECTUREFiveEasyPieces.docx - NOTE Please be...

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NOTE: Please be sure to read the first section of this lecture prior to screening FIVE EASY PIECES. At one point, it will be suggested that you stop—and take a look at the film. And then, be sure to continue on with the lecture. What follows at this juncture will be commentary on the film’s ending, which is shocking and surprising. (Let me add here that I first saw FIVE EASY PIECES in a movie theater in Chicago during its initial theatrical run. And I vividly recall how I responded to its final sequence. To put it mildly, I was in shock. I had never before seen such a finale—and I would bet that many if not all of you will be equally surprised by what happens to Jack Nicholson’s character.) ____________________________________ I now want to introduce the Module 1 film, which is titled: FIVE EASY PIECES. The director is Bob Rafelson. The year of release is 1970. The star is Jack Nicholson. Now during the late 1960s and early 1970s, four young American actors were making their marks, and becoming major film stars. None were flavors-of-the-month. Each remained active on screen for decades to come. I’m talking about Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, and Robert De Niro... Now here is a question: How many of you have seen THE DEPARTED, the Martin Scorsese film that was released in 2006? Well, if you’ve seen it, you will know that one of its stars is Jack Nicholson. And also, later this semester, we will be dealing with the early career of Martin Scorsese and focusing on TAXI DRIVER, one of the seminal films of the New American Cinema. So a film like THE DEPARTED is an ideal example of how some of the very best actors and directors whose careers began in the late 1960s and early 1970s were STILL ACTIVE DECADES LATER. Now regarding actors: You had great actors like Nicholson, Hoffman, De Niro, and Pacino starting to make films at this time. But I would be remiss if I did NOT observe at this point that there were NO ACTRESSES that are of their equal.
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This will be discussed in more detail later on this semester. However, very briefly, this relates to the types of roles that men and women then were allowed to play. And as we will see this semester, the JUICIER PARTS usually were written for men. How much this has changed today is a matter of opinion. But the point is that NO ACTRESSES of the stature of De Niro, Pacino, Hoffman, and Nicholson emerged during the late 1960s and early 1970s. (One might think of Meryl Streep here. But she is younger than Nicholson, Hoffman, De Niro, and Pacino—and she does not make her film debut until the very late 1970s. In fact, later this semester, we will be seeing KRAMER VS. KRAMER [1979], one of Streep’s first films. Another name that might come up is Jane Fonda. However, Fonda’s life and career are complex—she easily could be the subject of an entire course— and she is not as wedded to the New American Cinema films as the Nicholsons, Hoffmans, De Niros, and Pacinos.) And also, as for the role that women in general played in the American film industry at this point in time, it is most telling that ALL THE FILMS WE WILL BE SEEING IN CLASS WERE DIRECTED BY MEN.
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  • Spring '08

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