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For no obvious reason, local TV decided to show Jack Nicholson's half-forgotten and generally un-loved directorial debut Drive, He Said (1970) the other night. This one has been hard to find (not out on DVD until 2010) and I happily crossed another obscure New Hollywood title from my viewing list.
This joy over-shadows the actual watching experience, as this isn't a very good movie, even if it has all the vital bits present (BBS production, Bruce Dern, realistic settings, Karen Black, jump cuts, shakey-cam, context-less shots, the whole French '60s shit). The poor casting is a major problem, which seems curious with JACK directing, but the main guy is a pretty terrible actor, lacking both talent and experience. The actor portraying the increasingly psychotic best friend makes a scenery-chewing effort that doesn't really work but at least keeps you awake. The others range from annoying to OK, but except for Dern and Black basically no one went on to a real acting career... which confirms the poor casting. The only exception is Mike Warren who became a major TV name with Hill Street Blues, and he does well here.
Anyway, some scenes are terrible, some are confusing, and in a few rare cases things work. The story isn't a story as much as a mood, but that is basically what one expects with these early '70s New Hollywood outings. The main character is torn between following his counterculture buddies quest for freedom and revolution, and to pursue his basketball career and turn pro. The End. Well, almost, there's a jumbled love story involving Karen Black also. I predict that people who aren't used to watching these type of dated period movies will find Drive, He Said a boring chaos. Even with the spirit of anarchy at the time, the movie proved too untogether for both audiences and critics. Nicholson soon realized he'd made a mistake, and bought out the rights and all copies in order to bury it. 5/10