Still raising all kinds of hell
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