As Hollywood mourns the death of Bob Rafelson, the director of “Five Easy Pieces” and an essential member of the New Hollywood movement who helped launch the careers of Jack Nicholson and Peter Bogdanovich, one of the world’s greatest filmmakers (and film historians) has paid his respects. In a new statement, Martin Scorsese spoke about the impact that Rafelson had on the world of cinema, both through the art he created and the way he helped usher in a new business model for artistic filmmaking.
“Bob Rafelson was a pivotal figure in the history of cinema, American cinema most of all, and he was a bridge between two eras in Hollywood moviemaking,” Scorsese wrote. “He was literally born into the old Hollywood — his cousin was the great screenwriter Samson Raphaelson, one of Lubitsch’s key collaborators — and he was one of the people who made the New Hollywood possible, as a producer and then as a director.”
As one of the most popular New Hollywood filmmakers, Scorsese acknowledged the debt of gratitude that he owes to Rafelson. Without “Easy Rider,” which Rafelson produced, it may have never been possible for films such as “Taxi Driver” to find an audience.
“His company, BBS, produced ‘Easy Rider,’ the film that changed everything and opened the way for my generation to get our pictures made,” Scorsese said. “And then, in close collaboration with Jack Nicholson, he made ‘Five Easy Pieces,’ a massive success and a great film that really caught the mood of the country at the time. When you watch that picture, or the follow-up with Nicholson, ‘The King of Marvin Gardens,’ or the beautiful historical epic ‘Mountains of the Moon,’ you can see filmmaking grounded in the language of classical Hollywood but adapted with great sensitivity to a different era.”
Scorsese’s tribute was not a result of a close personal relationship between the two men, but a deep respect for Rafelson’s contributions to the art of cinema.
“Bob and I met just a few times and I never got to know him well, but we filmmakers owe him a lot,” he wrote. “In the history of our art form, he was a giant.”