A while back, bored with modern movies, I decided to watch some of the more popular films of a few great actors. I started with young Jack Nicholson, who stars in one of my favorites, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
Heeding the suggestion of a co-worker, I watched “Chinatown” and wasn’t hooked because the plot lacked realism. But what I did find on my young Jack journey was “Five Easy Pieces.”
Described as a character study about a promising concert pianist who leaves to work on a California oil rig, Nicholson returns home to “confront the cultured and dysfunctional family he left behind” after learning his father is ill.
What struck me most about this film, aside from Nicholson’s charisma, is it’s one of those rare films written for the thinker that relies on the viewer’s intelligence to psychoanalyze the characters. It’s an emotional piece about clashing cultures and the way people perceive themselves that I found stunning.
That led me to “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” a Nicholson/Jessica Lange movie with an interesting storyline that’s worth your time. However, I still have no idea what the title means. Maybe it is better explained in the book.
That sparked my interest in Jessica Lange films, so I rented “Frances,” a 1982 movie that was, reportedly, a sensationalized account of the life of actress Frances Farmer, who was institutionalized, suffering inhumane treatment.
Like other films that center around a character’s sanity while making a statement about an individual’s fight against the powers that be and the rigid rules of society, “Frances” is similar. It’s about a headstrong individualist who chooses to live life on her own terms and pays the price for coloring outside the lines in vintage America.
You may also want to see Irons, who currently stars on Showtime’s “The Borgias,” in “Damage.” It’s about a man who falls in love with his son’s fiance. The two are eventually discovered, and must deal with the damage.
“Damage” is one of those “spicy love scenes” movies like “The Postman Always Rings Twice” and “Body Heat,” which I recommend if you’re interested in seeing the film that launched Kathleen Turner’s career.
I also decided to check out a couple of Jane Fonda’s films. In “The China Syndrome,” she’s a reporter interviewing workers at a local nuclear power plant when a meltdown almost happens. The film is good, but perhaps the most interesting thing about it is the fact that it foreshadowed, and almost served as a prediction, for a similar, real-life incident.
“Klute” is another great film starring Fonda, who plays a prostitute trying to help solve a murder case – another great character study piece.