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USA 1969
Directed by
Paul Mazursky
104 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice

It was on the strength of this, his directorial debut, that for a while in the early 70s, actor-turned writer and director Paul Mazursky was considered a major player on the maverick film-maker circuit along with likes of Hal Ashby, Warren Beatty and Martin Scorsese. His career however, did not blossom and Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice remains his calling card.

A gently satirical commentary on the contemporary taste for bed-hopping, wife-swapping, love beads and psychoanalysis amongst the hippie-influenced Californian middle class Eisenhower generation it obviously no longer has the relevance it had at the time of its release when it was a considerable even controversial hit but it still has some appeal as a cabinet piece in terms of both its situational analysis and its hipster-talk, groovy wardrobe and colourful production design.  .

Persuaded by the free love notions of the period, well-to-do LA couple, Bob and Carol (Robert Culp and Natalie Wood the latter an unusual choice as she, unlike the other cast members is more identifiable with the 1950s although she was just over 30 when this, her last film of note, was made),  are contrasted with Ted and Alice (Elliott Gould and Dyan Cannon) as their more straight-laced and repressed friends as the film explores the dilemmas and delusions that these individual partake of in order to conform to the let-it-all-hang-out morality of the period, one which sits ill-at-ease with their far more conventional lifestyle.

Dramatically Mazursky and co-writer/producer Larry Tucker are too programmatic in their approach to generate much engagement with the characters who do little more than reiterate their typological positions before a coy ending that leaves them caught somewhere between mainstream resignation and flower-power idealism (and accompanied by Jackie DeShannon singing the Hal David/Burt Bacharach classic ''What the World Needs Now') albeit one which at least pragmatically speaking has proven to be not that wide of the mark. To paraphrase Freud and Ned Kelly, such is the lot of civilization and its discontents.

FYI: Sam Mendes would much more successfully essay a similar exploration of related issues in an earlier time setting in 2008's Revolutionary Road.

Available from: Shock Entertainment




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