Film of the Week: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

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Miloš Forman directs Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher and Brad Dourif in this ensemble drama looking at an opportunist but sane man trying to not conform to the regime of a head nurse in an oppressive mental ward. 

One the most intelligent and sensitive cinematic satires ever produced. Watching Randle P McMurphy’s individuality scrape and chafe against Nurse Ratched’s cruel regime creates laughter, tears and long lasting further thought. Each and every time Jack Nicholson’ lead aggressively battles against the mania, passivity or rules of the ward and its denizen you see him lose his grip on reality and shining bright sense of self a little bit more. It is an epic piece of acting, towering high within a fine ensemble of weirdos and freaks (early appearances from Christopher Lloyd, Danny DeVito, Vincent Schiavelli and, especially, Brad Dourif makes this feel like a flashpoint in modern movie character acting.) Louise Fletcher’s totalitarian head nurse proves more than a test of his mettle in a viciously cold performance. You can feel the ice forming on her constant steely suppression of anyone’s happiness in the ward, none more so than in her eternally painful group therapy sessions. Forman’s grip on this world where everything is a dirty, flavourless off-white and everyone is resigned to their role within it makes for a terrifying stage for a very funny tragedy. He expertly knows when to let everyone explode but then is also quite adept at slowing the pacing right down. Watch his pleasure in stretching awkward moments out with painful reaction shots from the cast at whatever madness is taking place, whether it be psychological or societal.

10

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