Five easy pieces

Somewhat akin in alienated mood to Jia Zhangke’s Platform is Five easy pieces (Bob Rafaelson, 1970).

The diner scene (“No substitutions”, “Hold the chicken”) is iconic:

But there’s far more to it than that. Among its many virtues, it’s a moving exposé of the pressures and frustrations of the classical musician’s life. In an abrupt change of mood, when Bobby finally reaches the family home, he enters to hear the Andantino of the E flat piano concerto K271 in an arrangement for two pianos, played in a ponderous style that matches the stifling, oppressive mood of the house:

—far from the charm of Robert Levin:

Just as exquisite is the Andante of the E flat concerto K482, also in C minor:

Bobby’s alienation is confirmed when he is cajoled into playing a Chopin Prelude, a piece that holds similarly disturbing childhood memories for me—note the powerful effect of the family photos:

In those heady times (The king of Marvin gardens, The last detailthose were the days) before Jack Nicholson began impersonating himself, his final monologue before his mute father is overwhelming (sorry—far better if you can watch the whole film, of course!):

Here’s a wise review for the fiftieth anniversary of the film in 2020.

For Augusta…

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