Tag Archives: Paul Mazursky

Blume in Love (1973)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Cheating husband seeks reconciliation.

Stephen Blume (George Segal) is a successful divorce lawyer who suddenly finds himself stuck in a break-up of his own when his wife (Susan Anspach) catches him cheating with his secretary and then leaves him. Now Blume becomes obsessed with winning her back and even starts up a friendship with her new live-in lover (Kris Kristofferson), but as his frustrations boil over he begins to react in violent ways when he can’t get what he wants.

Director Paul Mazursky delivers another insightful look at love and marriage and how the two aren’t always compatible. The narrative works in a fragmented style where clips of the different stages of the relationship are shown at various times and allows the viewer to see the many changes the two go through particularly with our protagonist whose internal flaws are ingloriously displayed for all to see. Normally this could prove a turn-off, but Segal manages to keep the character painfully human enough to be engaging most of the way even though he eventually overstays his welcome.

Mazursky gives the proceedings an artsy, cinema vertite flair especially with the way he captures St. Mark’s Square in Venice and by creating an offbeat romance that is filled with caustic humor. I also enjoyed the supporting cast including Marsha Mason as Blume’s new girlfriend who has a strong bit when she tearfully admits that she will ashamedly remain with Blume even after he acknowledges to her that he thinks only about his wife when the two make love.

Donald F. Muhich is fun as the psychiatrist. He was Mazursky’s real-life analyst and got paid back by being cast in four of his movies. His facial expressions and responses to his patients are so spot-on that it makes you feel like you’re attending an actual patient-doctor session.

Even Kristofferson does well in a part that takes advantage of his laid-back acting style though his character’s friendship with Blume gets overplayed. I felt even the most easy going of people would’ve drawn some boundaries and never have tolerated an ex-husband being around as much as he was. The scene where he finally does punch Blume, which should’ve come a lot sooner, gets totally botched because it has Kristofferson breaking down into a teary-eyed wail right afterwards for no apparent reason.

The film’s biggest flaw though is its manufactured happy ending that makes no sense. Blume was clearly too selfish and immature to have a healthy relationship with anyone and the fact that Anspach decides to accept him back even after he forcibly rapes her is absurd. Both characters were in need of some major psychological counseling and not each other. The fact that the film for the majority of its runtime plays like an anti-love story only to end up throwing in a clichéd wrap-up like all the other formulaic romances makes it a sell-out and a waste of time for the viewer looking for something intelligent and different only to find out that it really isn’t.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: June 17, 1973

Runtime: 1 Hour 55 Minutes

Rated R

Director: Paul Mazursky

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD, Amazon Video

Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986)

down-and-out-in-beverly-hills

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Bum befriends rich family.

Jerry (Nick Nolte) has been living on the streets for years to the point that he has become used to it. One day his dog that is starving runs away from him and befriends a lady on the sidewalk who gives him food and eventually takes him home with her. When Jerry realizes that his pet is gone he panics and goes throughout Beverly Hills on a mad search. When he can’t find him he decides to drown himself in a pool of a posh household. Dave (Richard Dreyfuss) is the owner of the home who saves Jerry before he can kill himself and the two begin an awkward friendship. Jerry is even invited to move in with the rest of Dave’s family, which quickly sends the household out-of-control.

This film is a remake of the 1934 French classic Boudu Saved from Drowning and director Paul Mazursky nicely weaves the theme of the rich befriending the poor into the tapestry of Reagan’s ‘80s capitalism. The pace is breezy and non-confrontational and shows the wealthy as actually being the weaker of the two as they are much less able to adjust to harsh elements while trapped in their sterile surroundings and boring livelihoods simply so they can keep up the challenging pace of staying in tandem to the standards of society’s upper crust.

Midler has some funny moments as the snotty wife who doesn’t at all enjoy Jerry’s presence until he is able to give her a type of orgasm that she never had. Nolte is excellent as the bum in one of his best all-around performances. The scene where he eats dog food straight out of the bowl alongside the family’s pet Matisse (Mike the Dog) is an absolute keeper.

There are also some great supporting performances including ‘50’s rock icon Little Richard who plays Dave’s rich African American neighbor and is just as wealthy as the rest of the people in the neighborhood, but still feels badly discriminated against and doesn’t mind letting anyone he meets know about it. I also enjoyed that Mazursky stays with his ongoing theme of employing his own real-life therapist (Donald F. Muhich) into many of his movies. Muhich had already appeared as a psychiatrist in three of Mazursky’s earlier efforts and here appears again as a mental health counselor, but this time for the family’s dog.

At that times though the film does get a bit too serene and seems to blithely ignore many of the more serious elements of homelessness. Many scenes make it seem almost like they want to be on the streets and even enjoy it. It also would’ve been funnier had Dave been more a rich snob and his personality contrasted more severely with Jerry’s only for him to eventually come down to his level at the end, but overall I still found the whole thing to be amiably entertaining.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: January 31, 1986

Runtime: 1Hour 43Minutes

Rated R

Director: Paul Mazursky

Studio: Buena Vista Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube

A Man, A Woman and a Bank (1979)

man a woman and a bank 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: A very large withdrawal.

Small-time crook Reese (Donald Sutherland) teams up with his computer expert friend Norman (Paul Mazursky) to pull of what they hope will be the perfect crime. Their plan is to reprogram the alarm system of a bank while the building is still under construction. Then when it finally gets completed they’ll break into the vault undetected and walk away with a cool 50 million dollars. Things though get off to a rocky start when commercial photographer Stacey (Brooke Adams) snaps of picture of Reese as he is stealing the blueprints of the building. In an effort to get the negatives back he tracks her down, but ends up falling in love with her instead putting their elaborate plan at risk.

There’s been a million and one bank robbery films done and many of them can be quite entertaining, but this one misses the mark from the very beginning. For one thing it gives us no backstory to the characters, or how they were able to come up with the idea in the first place. Giving a compelling reason for the viewer to become emotionally attached to the characters and their quest helps and this film fails to give it. The plan itself seems too easy and full of a lot of potential pitfalls that the script conveniently overlooks. The idea that the Norman character would be able to break into the bank’s security system by simply feeding the computer with a lot of useless usernames until it finally breaks down and starts spitting out the secret information is in itself quite questionable.

The pacing is poor and the story meanders onto several different story threads that have nothing to do with the crime. Analyzing Norman’s marriage difficulties and Stacey’s troubles with her possessive boyfriend (Allan Kolman) seems like material for a whole different movie and does nothing to help keep the interest going in this one. In fact the movie spends so much time on these other tangents that the robbery begins to seem almost like a side-story.

Stars Sutherland and Adams reunite after starring in Invasion of the Body Snatchers just a year earlier. The two share a good chemistry, but Sutherland is too laid back in the role and Adams’ hyper energy helps only so much. The film’s best performance and ultimate scene stealer is Mazursky who is completely on-the-mark as the nervous friend and gets quite a few good lines.

The film does have a couple of unique scenes that I liked including a collection of candles made to look like well-known game show hosts and a security guard who does jumping jack exercises only to light up a cigarette the minute he sits back down. The crime though is boring and does not offer enough tension. I was almost hoping they’d end up getting caught as they are able to pull it off too easily with a plan that I don’t think would ever work in real-life.

man a woman and a bank

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: September 8, 1979

Runtime: 1Hour 41Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Noel Black

Studio: AVCO Embassy Pictures

Available: DVD

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969)

bob and ted and carol and alice 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: 60’s style mate swapping.

Bob and Carol Saunders (Robert Culp, Natalie Wood) attend a group therapy session at a remote cabin location. There they encounter other couples who learn to become open with their feelings and sexuality. When they return home they find that their friends Ted and Alice (Elliot Gould, Dyan Cannon) are too repressed and need to open up more with their true selves. At first the other couple is reluctant, but after spending more time with Bob and Carol and adjusting to their new way of thinking, which includes allowing their spouse to have sex with other partners they slowly come around and eventually all four have sex together.

Paul Mazursky makes a splendid directorial debut. During the late sixties most filmmakers were trying to reflect the times by making movies that featured quick edits, zany plots, and surreal elements, but Mazursky slows it all down keeping the humor on a subtle level and making great use of silence. The envelope pushing subject matter is handled in refreshingly non-judgmental way. Some films from the era would take on some of the more racy topics of the day, but still feel the need to put in a ‘moral center’, but fortunately here that is not the case. Mazursky shows a respect for his adult audience by keeping the entire thing on an uncompromised sophisticated level. When I first saw the film over 20 years ago I felt it was too talky, but upon second viewing that opinion has mellowed and I now find the long takes gives it a nice improvisational feel.

One of the best moments of the film is the very beginning where we see an aerial shot of the remote cabin where the group encounter takes place as well as the open nudity by the participants and Bob and Carol driving up through the scenic locale on a curving road. Quincy Jones’s booming orchestral score adds to the already striking ambience. The scenes from the encounter group is handled almost in a documentary style analyzing not so much what it talked about, but instead on the different emotional reactions that the members have throughout it. The scene where Bob admits to Carol that he had an affair and instead of being angered by it she accepts it, which turns them on enough that they end up making love on their bathroom floor is funny as is the opposite reaction that Ted and Alice have when Carol tells them the ‘good news’.  I also found Alice’s therapy session to be fascinating namely because it seemed quite authentic and was done by an actual licensed psychiatrist (Donald F. Muhich) who at the time was Mazursky real life therapist.

Wood gives a strong and amazing performance in one of her best and unfairly neglected roles. Having seen interviews that she gave I was aware that she was raised in a sheltered environment, so it is interesting seeing her in a part of a liberated woman embracing the new modern morality. The wild look in her eyes sizzles from the screen and she looks awesome in a bikini a well.

Cannon is good as Wood’s polar opposite a woman who is reluctant to let go of the values of her more repressed era and yet still curious about trying. Having the character evolve as the film progresses makes it  interesting.

The two male leads are okay, but the underpants that Gould wears during the final scene where they undress are overly big to the point of almost looking like adult diapers.

The only real complaint that I have with the film is that the famous scene where the four characters all go to bed together doesn’t happen until the very end, which could prove frustrating to some viewers since that scene is the film’s most famous and one that was used for its promotion. I had no problem with the film showing the various events that led up to it happening as it was essential and intelligently done, but it does not show what happens to the characters after they do it. I felt a better structure for the film would have been to have the scene where they go to bed together happen right away at the beginning and then spend the rest of the film cutting back and forth showing what lead up to it as well as scenes showing how the characters went on with their lives and how they dealt with each other afterwards.

This is a great film because it shows the 60’s experience from a middle-aged person’s perspective and the confusion that it created. People observing the new free love generation from the outside looking  in still straddled with the more repressive values of the past and unsure about how or even if they should jump in.

bob and ted and carol and alice

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: September 17, 1969

Runtime: 1Hour 45Minutes

Rated M (Later changed to R)

Director: Paul Mazursky

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video