Filmmaker Bob Rafelson, known for his collaborations with Jack Nicholson, died on Sunday July 24. Director of “Five Easy Pieces” and “The Postman Always Rings Twice”, he was 89 years old.
He was one of the faces of New Hollywood and had achieved The postman always rings twice and Five easy pieces. Bob Rafelson passed away this Sunday, July 24, at the age of 89. He died of natural causes.
Disc jockey in Tokyo
Born in New York, Bob Rafelson left his family at the age of 15 to participate in rodeos, then left his country for a time for Europe and Japan, where he worked in turn on an ocean liner and then as a disc jockey in Tokyo. A few decades later, it is also on a boat that the protagonists of his film will take refuge Blood and Wine (1996). Back in America at the age of 18, he continued his adventure by becoming a drummer in a Mexican jazz orchestra and then went to study philosophy at Dartmouth College. His military service completed, he finished his studies in philosophy and then became a film critic. Soon, he settled on television as a script consultant for the needs of the show David Susskind “Play on the Week”. This was followed in 1966 by the creation of the show “The Monkees”for which he receives theEmmys for Best Comedy Series.
Jack Nicholson’s friend
Precursor of New Hollywood, the young director then generated a considerable influence on American cinema from the start of his career. He quickly became one of those big names that allowed independent cinema to spill over into the Hollywood machine, thus facilitating the distribution of films that until then had remained in the shadows. Notable development: the introduction of popular music from the 1960s and 70s in the soundtracks of feature films. Evidenced by the transposition on the big screen of his show “The Monkees”. Under the name of head (1968), the film recounts the comic-psychedelic adventures of the pop-rock group The Monkees, drawing inspiration from Help ! (1965) directed by Richard Lester. In the script, an actor still unknown whom he will meet again on many occasions: his friend Jack Nicholson.
Accompanied by the four members of the group, equipped with a tape recorder as well as a quantity of illicit products, they record all the ideas passing through their foggy heads. Result: a surrealist collage parodying almost everything that American cinema has in terms of genres. Confusing even the band’s fans, the film was enthusiastically received by critics and audiences alike. In 1969, Bob Rafelson co-founded with Bert Schneider the production company BBS and place Jack Nicholson in the casting ofEasy Riderlibertarian manifesto of Dennis Hopper of which he is the producer. Against all odds, the film quickly became the emblem of American counter-culture and the New Hollywood. Note that the director of photography Laszlo Kovacsat the origin of this very particular light in Easy Rideris chosen by Rafelson for some of his following films.
Five easy pieces
It is necessary to wait for 1971 and its second realization Five easy pieces for Rafelson to experience his first public recognition. Autobiographical story and emblematic stroll of the young Hollywood guard, the film does not demonstrate or tell anything, if not the wandering of the protagonists prey to an existential void of which they do not seem to be aware. Celebrated by the critics, the public success is there. The opportunity also for Jack Nicholson to know the first major role of his career. You don’t change a winning team: the following year, the actor joins the director again for the filming of The King of Marvin Gardens (1972). Stripped of anything that might tie it to a genre, the film is certainly Rafelson’s most radical work. The filmmaker rejecting any trace of spectacle, results in an almost total absence of narrative progression, wrongly leading critics and the public to shun the film. After producing some notable films like The last session (1971), from Peter Bogdanovich and The Mom and the Whore (1973), from Jean Eustachehe directed in 1976 stay hungrybodybuilt feature film carried by the actors Jeff Bridges and, for his first major role, Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Austrian actor won the Golden Globe for Best New Actor for the occasion. Sport, romance, comedy, we do not know once again in which box to put the thing.
Tribute to Film Noir
In 1981, released in dark rooms The postman always rings twicewhere Rafelson finds Jack Nicholsonalong with Jessica Lange. This is the remake of the eponymous film directed by Tay Garnettitself adapted from a literary classic written by James M. Cain. This time, the plunge into film noir is frank. Unlike the first adaptation of Postman always rings twice, the couple is here animated by an attraction that is both sentimental and sexual. An attraction that the screenwriter David Mamet underlines moreover by the integration of particularly daring erotic scenes for the time, and this all the more for a cast of this scale.
At the sources of the Nile
Bob Rafelson will then explore different registers including the thriller, with The black Widow (1986) or the adventure film with At the sources of the Nile. For his fourth collaboration with Jack Nicholsonhe then directed the romantic comedy Trouble Man (1992). The poor reception of the latter then marked the decline of the career of the filmmaker, who subsequently made mainly television films and a few episodes of an erotic series.
However, he came as a surprise in 1996 for his final reunion with the histrion of shining returning with Blood and Wine (1996) to his favorite genre. In the same vein as The King of Marvin Gardens (1972), which already revolved around a relationship between brothers, and especially Five easy pieces (1971), the film deals with father-son bonds. A hybrid work (detective and intimate) which sounds, almost 25 years later, like the closing of a trilogy on conflicting relationships. Between restraint and histrionics, Nicholson, the son of yesterday, is this time promoted to the paternal function. Six years later, the director signs another detective film, No apparent reason (2002), bringing together a host of stars including Samuel L.Jackson, Milla Jovovich and Stellan Skarsgard.