A broad walk along the board­walk THE KING OF MARVIN GAR­DENS

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM - DON­ALD CLARKE

Club, IFI, Dublin, 103 min been made be­tween 1969 and 1974. The loose-limbed plot­ting and taste for showy deca­dence sum­mon up the era as ac­cu­rately as do bell­bot­toms and the Ba­nana Splits. None of which is to sug­gest that it’s not worth dis­in­ter­ring. The King of Marvin Gar­dens (1972) is less shapely and more ob­scure in its moral pur­pose than Five Easy Pieces, but its funky en­er­gies still catch the eye.

The film be­gins with a fa­mous se­quence in which Jack Ni­chol­son, play­ing a ra­dio host, speaks som­brely about his grand­fa­ther to his pa­tient lis­ten­ers. Later, he is lured to At­lantic City, where his brother (Bruce Dern) is at­tempt­ing to set up some sort of real es­tate deal. The broth­ers rub up against Scat­man Crothers’s hood­lum and en­gage with a char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally crack­ers Ellen Burstyn.

The film doesn’t re­ally have any­thing you could call a plot, but its de­ter­mi­na­tion to im­pro­vise around ev­ery avail­able theme cre­ates a very en­gag­ing class of cin­e­matic jazz. Play at­ten­tion and you will note the nods to­wards At­lantic City’s rep­u­ta­tion as the place where Monopoly was in­vented. Ja­son goes to jail. There are at­tempts to buy a ho­tel.

You could ar­gue that At­lantic City is the most sig­nif­i­cant char­ac­ter in the film. At this stage the town has a shabby grace be­fore it em­braced the Dis­ney un­der­stand­ing of a gam­ing re­sort. Just a glance brings one back to the fag-end of the Nixon era. It’s film as time ma­chine, and very charm­ing it is too.

Counter-cul­tural: Jack Ni­chol­son re­united with Five Easy Pieces di­rec­tor Bob Rafel­son for The King of Marvin Gar­dens Di­rected by Bob Rafel­son. Star­ring Jack Ni­chol­son, Bruce Dern, Ellen Burstyn, Scat­man Crothers

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