Friday, March 25, 2016

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice; drama / comedy, USA, 1969; D: Paul Mazursky, S: Natalie Wood, Robert Culp, Elliott Gould, Dyan Cannon

Documentary filmmaker Bob and his wife Carol arrive at a remote resort where people practise a New Age kind of seance. Upon returning home to L.A., Bob and Carol decide to adapt this new kind of living and be very open about anything. Bob admits to Carol that he had an affair, which surprises their friends, Ted and Alice, who are puzzled by their new kind of life style. This causes a commotion between Alice and Ted, who wishes he also had an affair with a woman he kissed. Angry at this, Alice persuades all four of them to have sex with each other at once. However, just as Bob starts kissing Alice, and Carol kissing Ted, they give up and realize they don't really want a foursome after all.

Paul Mazursky's feature length debut film is a comic contemplation on the counterculture movement of the 60s and how the middle class tries to adapt this new kind of lifestyle to be "in", but finds out it is quite often disruptive for their mentality, and thus a middle ground needs to be found. This clash of liberalism and conservatism in "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice" works only to a certain degree, however, since the narrative is often very chaotic and all over the place, overstretching the storyline into several pointless episodes with too much empty walk. Mazursky was at his height in the beginning of his career, and rarely goofed in that period, yet this film offers him in much less inspired edition. The endless debates about how the two couples feel upon finding out that one of them had an affair can only go so far before depleting the viewers' interest. Luckily, some dialogues have spark (in the pool sequence, where Ted admits he kissed a woman, but then stopped because he could not cheat on his wife, Bob gives this interesting quote: "How can you... let a moment disappear out of your life.. that will never ever come again?") as well as a few good moments, such as when Carol tries to talk openly with the waiter at the restaurant, but he resists and just remains official all the time. Not one of Mazursky's highlights, and not for everyone's taste, yet Natalie Wood is great in the leading role whereas the structure of the storyline is so untypical and startling that it still seems unpredictable, which prevents it from playing out like a pattern from many other films of that era.


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