Five Easy Pieces appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. We got a good – and sometimes great – transfer here.
Sharpness seemed inconsistent but usually solid. Most of the movie displayed positive delineation, and some shots came across with a tremendous amount of detail. However, occasional elements appeared somewhat soft; these usually appeared during wide shots. Nonetheless, the majority of the flick boasted good clarity.
No issues with jaggies or moiré effects occurred, and edge haloes remained absent. I detected no signs of digital noise reduction, as the movie maintained a good natural sense of grain. Source flaws were virtually non-existent across this clean presentation.
With its fairly natural palette, Pieces boasted nice colors. These rarely excelled, but they consistently looked full and rich. Blacks were deep and dense, but shadows could be a bit up and down. Some low-light sequences displayed good clarity, while others seemed a little dense. Despite some drawbacks, I mostly thought the film looked fine, and parts of it offered very strong visuals.
Given the film’s scope, you shouldn’t expect much from its PCM uncompressed monaural soundtrack. Speech became the dominant factor, and that side of the mix sounded fine. Lines occasionally appeared a bit thick, but they usually showed good distinctiveness.
Music came only from country songs or classical pieces, so the movie didn’t provide a standard score. Most of the music existed more like background material, and that meant those components didn’t boast great presence. Still, they were acceptably clear. Effects also lacked a strong role, but they seemed reasonably concise and accurate. Nothing here stood out as memorable, so I thought this track was pretty average for its age.
How did the 2015 Blu-ray compare to the original Criterion Blu-ray from 2010? Both were identical, as they offered the same visual and auditory transfers.
When we shift to the set’s extras, we start with an audio commentary from director Bob Rafelson and interior designer/Bob’s then-wife Toby Rafelson. Both recorded individual running, screen-specific tracks that got edited into this single piece. They chat about set design and locations, cast and performances, music, script/story and cinematography, working with the studio and the production company, costumes and the film's title.
While not the most exciting commentary I've heard, the Rafelsons cover the flick well. We get a good background for the production along with a nice number of insights. The piece moves at a solid pace and keeps us involved, so it's a fine companion to the movie.
Another audio piece arrives via Bob Rafelson at the AFI. Recorded in 1976, this provides a 49-minute, 23-second Q&A session in which Rafelson discusses themes and his background, how Head came to be and writing its script, casting Bruce Dern in The King of Marvin Gardens, how BBS worked and Rafelson's functioning in Hollywood, and aspects of other film projects. Due to the nature of the Q&A, it tends to be somewhat disjointed; it flits from one film/subject to another, so it doesn't follow a concise line.
Nonetheless, it offers quite a few nice observations. The audience members manage to come up with thought-provoking queries and don't go off onto silly tangents. That means the chat turns into an interesting compilation of notes.
Soul Searching in Five Easy Pieces lasts nine minutes, eight seconds and includes statements from Rafelson and actor Jack Nicholson. We learn about the project’s origins and development, real-life influences for movie scenes, and the flick’s original ending. Unfortunately, we don’t get much from Nicholson; it’s good to see him, but he adds little. At least Rafelson fleshes situations out well and avoids repetition with the commentary. He makes this a valuable extra.
A documentary entitled BBStory fills 46 minutes, 35 seconds with notes from Rafelson, Nicholson, filmmakers Peter Bogdanovich, Fred Roos, Harry Gittes, and Henry Jaglom, film critic Richard Schickel, and actors Karen Black, Bruce Dern, Micky Dolenz, Timothy Bottoms, and Ellen Burstyn. “BBStory” covers the company’s origins and the creation of various films starting with 1968’s Head and finishing with 1972’s King of Marvin Gardens. “BBStory” offers a pretty nice little overview. It gives us a good series of anecdotes and creates an entertaining and informative take on its subject.
BBS: A Time for Change lasts 27 minutes, 38 seconds and offers statements from critic David Thomson and historian Douglas Brinkley. The show examines aspects of the era – both in terms of general society and the movie business - and the development of BBS as a film production company. Both men offer solid details and give us a useful overview of how BBS worked and what it meant to the era’s cinema.
Finally, we locate some ads. The disc includes two teasers and one trailer. We also get a booklet. This 12-page piece includes photos, credits and an essay from critic Kent Jones. It complements the set well.
(Note that all the extras on the 2015 Blu-ray also appeared on the 2010 release. The 2015 disc adds “A Time for Change”; it previously showed up on the Blu-ray for Head.)
Five Easy Pieces shows a different side of Jack Nicholson than the one best known to fans. It delivers a good character examination that delivers an involving experience. The Blu-ray offers fairly solid picture quality, average audio, and a consistently informative set of supplements. Fans who don’t already own the 2010 “Lost and Found” boxed set should snap up this strong release.
To rate this film visit the prior review of FIVE EASY PIECES