Still rais­ing all kinds of hell

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - TARA BRADY

ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST Di­rected by Miloš For­man. Star­ring Jack Ni­chol­son, Louise Fletcher, Wil­liam Red­field, Christo­pher Lloyd, Wil­liam Duell, Wil­liam Red­field, Brad Dou­rif. Club, lim­ited re­lease, 144mins You just can’t ar­gue with the place which One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest holds in cinema history. In the 42 years since Miloš For­man’s film pre­miered, it has won ev­ery pos­si­ble ac­co­lade, in­clud­ing the big five at the Os­cars (Best Picture, Best Ac­tor in a Lead Role, Best Ac­tress in a Lead Role, Best Direc­tor and Best Screen­play), preser­va­tion at the Na­tional Film Reg­istry and a top half rank­ing on the Amer­i­can Film In­sti­tute’s 100 Years . . . 100 Movies list. It also has mu­sic by Jack Nitzsche and cin­e­matog­ra­phy by Haskell Wexler. What’s not to like?

The ac­tors would also carry some­thing of the film through­out their ca­reer. How many times and ways has Christo- pher Lloyd sub­se­quently been cast as a crazy coot? How many peo­ple feared Louise Fletcher’s re­li­gious tyrant in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine be­fore she even opened her mouth?

It’s an odd sen­sa­tion watch­ing the film four decades on, not least be­cause many of the com­par­a­tively un­changed play­ers – Danny DeVito, Lloyd, Ni­chol­son, Fletcher – were ac­tors of an un­cer­tain age play­ing char­ac­ters of an un­cer­tain age. It’s odd, too, as one can sense the direc­tor re­fram­ing McMur­phy as a twin­kling coun­ter­cul­tural force. In this spirit, the char­ac­ter has no longer raped a nine-year-old as he did in Ken Ke­sey’s orig­i­nal novel. In­stead, he brags about the statu­tory rape of a teenager.

Lawrence Hauben and Bo Gold­man’s screen­play damp­ens down the rather pun­gent misog­yny of the source novel, a book etched with such fear of dom­i­nant (read em­ployed or opin­ion­ated) women, it might eas­ily be re­branded for a new “men’s rights ac­tivist” (MRA) gen­er­a­tion. One Flew Over the Cuck’s Nest, any­one?

The sex­ual pol­i­tics have dated, yet con­versely, Cuckoo’s over­lap with Michel Fou­cault’s ideas on the con­struc­tion and so­ciopo­lit­i­cal ap­pro­pri­a­tion of mad­ness re­mains po­tent and ur­gent.

A fas­ci­nat­ing reis­sue. Are you ready for your med­i­ca­tion?

Jack Ni­chol­son in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

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