Five Easy Pieces 1970 ***


One of the less heralded items of Jack Nicholson’s celebrated 70’s career, Bob Rafelson’s freewheeling 1970 film sees the star in top form as non-conformist drifter Robert Dupea, who shuffles from one job to another while squandering his gift for playing the piano. One memorable scene sees Dupea getting out of a car in the back of a traffic jam and playing a piano loaded onto the back of a flatbed truck for the entertainment of his fellow motorists. Five Easy Pieces settles down when Dupea comes home and his family have their say about his lifestyle; it’s clear that Dupea’s intelligence and gifts are likely to be unrealized by his low-life lifestyle, but it’s also clear that he’s running from the responsibilities of an well-heeled family he find hard to love. A small-scale work, Five Easy Pieces now has an honest, uncontrived characters that makes it far less dated than the modish Easy Rider.

Absolution 1981 ***


As well as creating Sleuth and The Wicker Man, Tony Shaffer provided a memorable face off between Richard Burton and Billy Connolly in this neglected 1978 thriller. Set in a Catholic boarding school, Burton plays Father Goddard, a priest torn when his favourite pupil Benjamin (Dominic Guard) makes a confession to him. Benjamin claims to have murdered a drifter called Blakey (Connolly) who has set up camp in the school grounds. His confession is false, but proves to be the first move in a deadly game. Anthony Page directs an intense and complex thriller that makes the most of the unusual setting, and features the ingenious plot twists that Shaffer built his considerable reputation on.