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Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    What the World Needed Then. . .

    Films like Arthur Penn's "Alice's Restaurant" (1969) were now dealing openly with the effect that the changes in society had on the youth of the nation. But it yet remained for a film to study the shifting lifestyles of early middle-aged people who tried to embrace both the new morality and the youth revolution, attempting to reorder their lifestyles to fit in with the breezy image of how liberated people ought to behave. The film that filled this vacuum was "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice", an updating of the Doris Day comedies that had flourished during the first half of the decade, and then disappeared when, in 1967, the radical changes going on around us made such pictures seem suddenly obsolete. First-time director Paul Mazursky was given a tight budget of $2 million from Columbia Pictures to make "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice" and he managed to persuade Natalie Wood (then a major star) to reduce her usual $750,000 salary in favor of 10% of the film's profits. The result was the year's surprise smash hit and Natalie earned $3 million from her share of the profits alone. Filmmaker Mazursky's great gift, first suggested in his excellent screenplay for "I Love You, Alice B. Toklas" (1968), and in evidence throughout his direction of B&C&T&A, was a talent for blending strong social satire with lighthearted situation comedy, and giving the end result an underlying sense of seriousness that elevated his work of entertainment into an "art" film. This would provide the basis for his most satisfying films, including "Blume in Love" (1973), "Harry and Tonto" (1974), and "An Unmarried Woman" (1978). The great moments in B&C&T&A are the ones which demonstrate his total familiarity with and understanding of the upper-middle-class California scene, which he presents with razor sharp humor but, notably, without the kind of condescension that would diminish the impact of such a film. The satire is expert--sharply written, well and dryly observed, and generally very funny. Mazursky's direction was somewhat influenced at the time, I would suspect, by the John Cassavetes of "Faces" (1968). The close-ups are tight and constant and the dialogue is filled with interruption, irrelevance, repetition, and people talking over each other. The acting couldn't have been better: Natalie Wood crying "beautiful" at each new expression of modern candor Dyan Cannon giggling through a scene with a deadpan psychiatrist Robert Culp pursuing the free life with earnest intensity Elliott Gould struggling out from under his stoned friends as they clutch each other on the couch. Best of all is the scene between Ted and Alice (both Gould and Cannon received Oscar nominations for their performances) in the privacy of their bedroom, as they face the classical marital dilemma of whether they are in the mood for lovemaking. What made this film far superior to the witless general run of comedies at the time was the tolerant understanding of Oscar-nominated screenwriters Mazursky and Larry Tucker and their obvious affection for the characters. Importantly, B&C&T&A was the film chosen to open the 1969 New York Film Festival, which marked a significant departure from the usual opening night event of the latest import of a film by some respected European auteur. In 1969, critics finally acknowledged that the long-held distinction between honest European art films and synthetic American entertainment films had at last broken down.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Groovy, but in a Good Way

    Strangely undated, despite the funny clothes. Takes a cynical, sympathetic look at the attempt to turn fashion into lifestyle. Fine acting by all, and a smart script. (PS: I had no idea how beautiful Natalie Wood was.)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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