BOB RAFELSON

W R I T E R                       P R O D U C E R                        D I R E C T O R

"An honorary Oscar would be appropriate if his only single film had been MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON. Bob seems to approach a film with absolutely no compromise and no sense of personal danger. Certainly he is one of the most important cinematic artists of our generation."

  -FRANCIS FORD COPOLLA

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"Mountains of the Moon"  Kenya location photo

BIO

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Bob Rafelson born (February 21, 1933)  is an American film director, writer and producer.  He is most notably regarded as one of the founders of the New Hollywood Movement which was gaining critical respect in the 1970's.  Among his best known films are Five Easy Pieces (1970),  The King of Marvin Gardens (1972),  The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981) and the overlooked film Mountains On The Moon (.....).  He was also one of the co creators of the pop group and tv series The Monkees with Raybert/BBS Productions partner Bert Schneider.                                                                                                                                                             

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Hollywood Movie Director, Bob Rafelson honored at 40th Aspen Film Festival:

FILMOGRAPHY

FILM REVIEWS

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MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON-review

"BOB RAFELSON'S LOST CLASSIC!  Mountains of the Moon" is completely absorbing. It tells its story soberly and intelligently, and with quiet style. It doesn't manufacture false thrills or phony excitement. It's the kind of movie that sends you away from the screen filled with curiosity to know more about this man Burton. Why, you ask yourself, has such an oversized character become almost forgotten? The movie is about the unquenchable compulsion of some men to see what is beyond the horizon, and about the hunger for glory. It is about stubbornness and pride. It is about a friendship that would have been infinitely less painful if the friends had not both been bullheaded. It is a tribute to this movie that, at the end, neither the filmmakers nor their audience have much interest in whether anyone found the source of the Nile.   TWO THUMBS UP!

Roger Ebert

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BLOOD AND WINE - review

"One early review of this film said it had a "'70s feel.'' Perhaps that means it takes its plot seriously, and doesn't try to deflect possible criticism by hedging its bets by pretending there is an ironic subtext. I like movies like this: I like the way the actors are forced to commit to them, to work without a net. When Rafelson and Nicholson find the right material, it must be a relief for them to fall back into what they know so well how to do, to handle hard scenes like easy pieces."

-ROGER EBERT

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BLACK WIDOW-review

Bob Rafelson has made a few neo noirs and this is one of his most effective. Theresa Russell stars as a woman who marries rich men, murdering them in ways that don't appear to be murder shortly after their wedding. Once she liquidates their assets, she adopts a new identity and starts the process over with a new mark. Federal investigator Debra Winger stumbles onto evidence linking a couple of the murders and she obsessively pursues Russell, ultimately befriending Russell as she stalks her latest husband in Hawaii. This is a good thriller with a superb cast (Dennis Hopper, Terry O'Quinn, James Hong, Diane Ladd, Nicol Williamson ... even Mary Woronov in a tiny role) and Rafelson's slower 70's American new wave style.

-Richard D - Rotten Tomatoes

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THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE-review

"Adapted from James M. Cain's 1934 novel, this version of the book was directed by Bob Rafelson and adapted by David Mamet. Unlike the 1946 film version, which was restricted by the Hays Production Code, Rafelson was able to go to places neither the original film nor the book ever did, the result shocked audiences at the time, and it's still powerful now. Set in 1934, this has drifter Frank Chambers (Jack Nicholson), getting a job at a roadside diner in rural California ran by Greek immigrant Nick Papadakis (John Colicos) and his young American wife Cora (Jessica Lange). It's not long before Frank and Cora begin a torrid but very passionate love affair, and Cora wants out of her marriage to Nick, who she does not love. So Frank and Cora think of a way to kill Nick, which is unsuccessful at first but they kill him and stage it to look like a car accident. While there is a bit of tension in court, which is all a rouse by Cora's attorney Katz (Michael Lerner) to get the prosecution off their tail, who think it was a planned murderer, Frank and Cora do get away with it. It's a provocative and dark film noir done for an 80's audience, Rafelson, in his 4th collaboration with Nicholson, weaves a wicked tale of murder and deceit that's well made with good cinematography by Sven Nykvist." 

-Stuart K- Rotten Tomatoes

THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE-review

"When you're trying to find a true Neo-Noir, this is hard to beat. Not only does it keep the safe feel and raunchy plot line as most Film Noirs of the late 30s and 40s, but its also a very well composed re-imagining of one. David Mamet beautifully adapts a decent script into a complete masterwork. It has all the great ingredients that make people love the movies. The look of the film is amazing as well, with a lot of great period sets, costumes and cars. You also get a real sense that you're there with these characters. Bob Rafelson does another great job at directing flawless performances and capturing humans at their best and at their worst. 

I don't think you can get better than Jack Nicholson when it comes to shady characters, he captures Frank Chambers perfectly. While you ultimately side with him and relate to his views, he truly is a vile person. What makes it great is Jack Nicholson's deranged sense of charm, which surprisingly works every time. Jessica Lange also gives quite possibly her best performance, definitely the most natural she's ever been.

What I love most about this movie is the fact that the story is so incredibly fun and you become so invested with these two characters who want nothing but trouble. I think it's great when a film can make you side with the villains, most of the time they're the most interesting ones anyway. Even through all their bad deeds, they still manage to engage you and make you fall in love with them."

-CONOR R- Rotten Tomatoes

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THE KING OF MARVIN GARDENS-review

Bob Rafelson's "The King of Marvin Gardens" is a perversely satisfying movie, it works after going out of its way not to, and a very eccentric one. It backs into its real subject in much the same way that "Five Easy Pieces", Rafelson's previous film, did. Only after it's over do some of its scenes and moments fall into place; for much of the way we've been disoriented and the story has been suspended somewhere in midair. As someone wrote about a totally dissimilar movie, Paul Morrissey's "Trash", it's the kind of film you want to walk out of, and then when it's over you want to see it again. 

-ROGER EBERT

Five Easy Pieces and King of  Marvin Gardens are far and away as good as anything made in their time in America.

A BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF FILM- by DAVID THOMPSON

"This movie is the best excuse I've ever seen for a cocaine habit"

-HUNTER S. THOMPSON

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FIVE EASY PIECES-review

It is difficult to explain today how much Bobby Dupea meant to the film's first audiences. I was at the New York Film Festival for the premiere of "Five Easy Pieces," and I remember the explosive laughter, the deep silences, the stunned attention as the final shot seemed to continue forever, and then the ovation.

We'd had a revelation. This was the direction American movies should take. 

-ROGER EBERT - TWO THUMBS UP!

The Kid

 

The Highwaymen

 

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STAY HUNGRY-review

THIS IS ONE OF GEMS THAT NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT BUT ITS A FUCKING CLASSSIC. Arnold is great in this film and I simply love this story and film. This film could never be made today its a true product of the 70s.

Tyrone W-Rotten Tomatoes

STAY HUNGRY- Senses of Cinema Interview

In 1976, Rafelson directed the distinctive  Stay Hungry, set in the world of gymnasiums and body building contests, starring Jeff Bridges and featuring a young Arnold Schwarzenegger. THE FIGHT SCENE IN STAY HUNGRY IS THE  BEST THAT'S EVER  BEEN STAGED. The scene is so breathtaking to watch. It’s so long. It’s so amazing. It feels real where other movies simply are not. 

Bob Rafelson-“The two hardest things to do on film, I think, are scenes of fucking and fighting. And I don’t use stunt men for fighting. I ask the actors to fight and choreograph it entirely myself. I also get very nervous before a fight scene because I don’t want anybody to get hurt. When I do a fight scene in a picture as in Stay Hungry, usually I want to hurt the audience. I want them to feel the pain of the fight – or the comedy of the fight."

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THE MONKEES-"HEAD"-review

This movie is ahead of it's time. Probably the single most under-rated movie of all time, or at least in the top 5. You don't have to like the Monkees to appreciate this movie, since it has little to do with the TV show. It's a very deep movie, and it makes you think. At times it might look a little silly, but if you think that then you aren't seeing the bigger picture of what they are actually saying, you are just looking at it at face value. Don't do that with this movie. Take nothing for granted. It's an experience. You might have to watch it a second or third time before you get it.

Michael G-Rotten Tomatoes

America is making great films...HEAD is one of them.

LA TIMES

"RAFELSON'S MASTERWORK"

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"MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON"

"An honorary Oscar would be appropriate if his only single film had been MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON.  Bob seems to approach a film with absolutely no compromise and no sense of personal danger. Certainly he is one of the most important cinematic artists of our generation."

-FRANCIS FORD COPOLLA

"Burton is such an overwhelming figure that he must have scared moviemakers until now.  But director Bob Rafelson has made up for this with a vengeance.  In MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON  he focuses on Burton's most famous exploit, his African expeditions with John Hanning Speke to find the source of the Nile.  Rafelson pitches us into the appalling ordeal of the explorers' treks -fever cripples Burton, beetles attack Speke, one of them burrowing agonizingly into his ear.  The movie has some of the most violent scenes ever filmed (including an attack in which a Somali's spear caused the legendary scarring of Burton's face).  But these scenes are rare examples of justified violence they show the shock of culture colliding in fear and ignorance."

-NEWSWEEK REVIEW

 Jack Kroll

BOB RAFELSON'S LOST CLASSIC

"Mountains of the Moon" is completely absorbing. It tells its story soberly and intelligently, and with quiet style. It doesn't manufacture false thrills or phony excitement. It's the kind of movie that sends you away from the screen filled with curiosity to know more about this man Burton. Why, you ask yourself, has such an oversized character become almost forgotten? The movie is about the unquenchable compulsion of some men to see what is beyond the horizon, and about the hunger for glory. It is about stubbornness and pride. It is about a friendship that would have been infinitely less painful if the friends had not both been bullheaded. It is a tribute to this movie that, at the end, neither the filmmakers nor their audience have much interest in whether anyone found the source of the Nile.   TWO THUMBS UP!

Roger Ebert

RAFELSON TALKS OF THE MAKING OF "MOUNTAINS"-

"It took me 12 years to get  MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON  made.  Richard Burton was my personal hero and had a great influence on my life.  The movie is absolutely my most personal film.  It deals with issues of friendship loyalty and betrayal.  One reviewer compared it favorably with Lawrence of Arabia.  It was an ordeal to make Mountains, but surely a privilege."

"There was one time, only  partly amusing, where Somalian border inhabitants shot at my entire company. 
Burton  and Speke had a caravan of helpers. They carried the weight of the expedition.  All were dressed in 19th century skins. The Somalians opened fire.  They weren’t dressed too differently.  My guys just turned around and walked the other way, perhaps a little more quickly.  I was in the lead of this retreat.
Only one guy took a bullet.  He never mentioned it ‘til late that night .

 

Once we were shooting near the equator. It was 134 degrees. Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in such swelter. The heat waves created something special for the camera and man , Roger Deakens knew it and that’s the way it looks in the movie...HOT.


The biggest injury on the film, was my producer trying to show a native African how to throw a spear. He wound up throwing it into his own foot. 

The two stars, Burton and Speke,learned how to do their own makeup. I did sound. We would split off from the main company, and with a five man crew and two actors shoot large chunks of the movie. 
I also edit my work in the camera as I’m shooting. Why bother to shoot an angle if you don’t really need it. The film is cut in my head. I’ve done this on all my movies. It’s the only way to work low budget. 

I think the most dangerous part is the research...but for me it’s also the most rewarding and the most fun.Making the movie is sometimes anticlimactic.

I logged 800 miles walking in Africa.  Some before the “Mountains” research.  Most  later.  A lot of it by myself.  Some when others I met along the way. 

Once I was trying to figure out how Burton and Speke would have been able to walk from the ocean inland.  It’s all heavy brush and thorns. 

This time I was in an open  1943 Jeep.  A Dane was driving.  And an old man , totally ignorant of the terrain, sat on the hood pointing  randomly the way. 
We were driving from inland. Finally we got to the ocean,pretty messed up. There at sunset was one of the happiest moments of my life.  Elephants were watering themselves on the beach.  We cooked some food and I congratulated myself as if I had led a year’s expedition.  I couldn’t have been happier.

Or more deluded.  I had slept on a sandy mound of fierce red ants. 
When we we made it back we left our gear in the Jeep to get medicine.  We paid a guy to watch the car.

 We came out.   My bag was gone.  1000 pages of notes, photos, etc. 
It was a weird satchel, army surplus Khaki.

Strangely enough the thief was spotted staggering under its heft.

He was arrested.  Almost impossible.  Thieves near Mombassa are never caught.

 

All I had to do was travel a few miles north.  There was a fort, now a prison, built in the 16th century by the Portuguese.  It was conversely named Fort Jesus.  I had five joints in the bag.  Whose were they they, the thief’s or the American’s!!!?  

Beatings and lock up in a hostile cell ensued.  I tried to protect my "nuts" in a dungeon with 150  black men all of them wanting a squeeze.

 

I’ve been imprisoned and tortured on three continents. I wasn't always innocent. I was unfailingly stupid.  

All the sergeant wanted was a bribe.

But I had integrity. Fuck him. He weighed at least Three hundred pounds.  A double for Idi Amin.

He kept the dope. I was released.  But I went back for my joints. We wound up splitting them.  He got the one with the angel dust.  A drug so powerful it would paralyze you inside your own visions.  I proffered that one and immediately boarded a train to Nigeria. 

 

I don’t sleep more than two hours a night. Churchill did this . He would meet in a bunker with his chiefs of staff. And once an hour they were dismissed. Churchill slept ten minutes on the hour. Every hour. 

So for the most part I camped away from the tents and the vehicles.  I’d  sleep in my bag, wake up, map the next day's shoot and howl at the moon.  In Africa the moon howls back. Or some animal does."

-BOB RAFELSON 

Bob Rafelson Official Website

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