I only heard of Paul Mazursky last year (when he passed away, sadly) but his body of work seems to have had a subtle influence on many of today’s best filmmakers. I really didn’t know what to expect. He’s like the best kept secret of the movie brat crowd. Altman, Scorsese, Spielberg, Friedkin, Ashby and De Palma all get their fair share of discussion, but how often does Mazursky come up? After seeing Bob & Carol & Ted & AliceI can say: not often enough.
This is a great, great movie. You know how a show like Mad Men can look back on the 60s with hindsight and showcase all the buried sadness, tragedy, melancholy as well as the good stuff? Well Bob & Carol does all that but has the added bonus of actually being made in the 60s. In fact this movie picks up more or less exactly where Mad Men left off. It starts at an Esalen retreat where Bob and Carol gain a newfound emotional honesty with one another. They then return home and share their experiences with Ted and Alice, who are skeptical at first but soon come around to their way of thinking. The film follows the two couples as they undergo new sexual experiences and confront buried tensions in their relationships both together and separately.
The script by Mazursky and Larry Tucker is beautifully, hilariously, painfully observed. So honest and raw yet tender and true. These characters are so charming to spend time with and weirdly relatable. I might not have been around in the 60s but I recognise these characters in my parents and other older people I have known in my lifetime. Something about this film just feels so authentic to me; from the dialogue and the attitudes to something more supernatural like just the sheer vibe it gives off. It’s like time travel. I love it so much.
All four of the lead performances are fantastic. Not only is everybody really good looking and charismatic, but again they just feel right. Natalie Wood and Dyan Cannon, absolute knock-outs just to look at, go way beyond their beauty to expose very human and very flawed attributes of their characters. It’s crazy endearing. The actors here don’t feel like movie stars in as much as they feel like the characters they’re playing. If you told me this was Natalie Wood from Rebel Without a Cause and The Searchers I wouldn’t believe you. They’re very much in keeping with the kind of real and gut-felt performances ushered in by Kazan and Brando that would truly flourish throughout the 70s. Plus, plus, PLUS this movie also stars my ALL TIME FAVOURITE ACTOR FROM THE 70S: Elliott Gould! My god is he the bomb here. My man got an Oscar nom for this role and if it wasn’t for this, the Elliott Gould persona may have never existed. That’s a world I just don’t want to exist in. All hail Elliott Gould.
I was really gobsmacked by this movie. So ahead of its time and modern; the comedy so rooted in character and emotion, it’s an unsung classic that should be as praised and referenced as Annie Hall. The ending is remarkable too. Burt Bacharach singing “What the World Needs Now Is Love” over the four faces of the cast after a failed foursome is an all timer for me. Can’t wait to seek out more of this Mazursky guy. He’s the real deal.