Monday, 18 November 2013

BOB and CAROL and TED and ALICE (1969) WEB SITE












Paul Mazursky's Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice is a devilishly funny but wickedly thoughtful and contemplative film that shows a time period in America when what happened in the bedroom between a man and a woman didn't stay in the bedroom between a man and a woman. The newer generation taught us to be more open and thoughtful with our sexual desires, expressing them freely, and not restricting them as if sex was an unnatural thing. Connecting this to film, as I so often do, just look at how Americans have quietly been told to fear sex. A violent wartime epic can still achieve a PG-13 rating, while a three second shot of a vagina will stamp you film with the "kiss of death" NC-17 rating. How have our private parts been so private we've resorted to embracing the unnatural and the cruel and fearing the natural and the serene? Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice was made in 1969, right on the teetering edge of the hippie movement and during the "free love" movement, where marriage was seen as a restraint on ones well-being and pocketbook and the state had no business in dealing with it. The film, judging by its premise, deals with the concept of swinging or "wife-swapping," when it in turn, deals with the ethics and moral values that get in the way of doing such acts. We explore the lives of two couples, ostensibly similar on the surface, but royally different when examined. The couples are Bob and Carol Sanders (Robert Culp and Natalie Wood), a trendier, more liberal couple, while Ted and Alice Henderson (Elliott Gould and Dyan Cannon) are your more straight-shooting, square couple, highly indicative of the parents of sexually promiscuous teens in the 1960's and 1970's trying to understand their teenage sons and daughters.

Bob and Carol spend a weekend at a couples retreat, one of those camps that allows for emotional honesty between married people to flow and allow for deeper feelings and emotions to penetrate one another. Because of the impact this has had on them, Bob reveals to Carol that while working on a film set he slept with another woman in an act he called "purely physical" and not emotional. Carol accepts this about as well as a wife could, believing Bob, admiring his honesty, and carrying on her own way, even casually revealing it to their best friends Ted and Alice, who are appalled at the thought. Alice finds herself especially sick with the idea that Bob could do such a thing and then reveal it to Carol who isn't the least bit upset with him. Damn western hippies, I tell you.

This prompts Ted and Alice to have a lengthy nighttime conversation about the affair, the impact it could have on their friends in the long term, and if they themselves are sexually promiscuous at all. This is one of the many great talks in the film, focusing sharply on human emotion and feelings, two things often traded in American cinema for punchlines and vulgarity. In this conversation, Mazursky leaves the camera turned on the couple for a long period of time, listening to the conversation, hearing what both has to say, and leaving us with a lot to contemplate by the end of talk, whether we're single or married.

These kinds of dialogs that go on for a while and leave the view in a self-contemplative state are fiercely common in Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, including the nudging idea of "is it possible for a couple to be married for a lifetime and not have sexual feelings for another women, be them expressed or regressed?" Throughout his career, Mazursky has been interested in character, marriages, the arguments and debates that a husband and wife have, but most importantly, relationships. When I say "relationships," I don't mean those confined to a marital or dating relationship but various relationships people can find themselves in.

The actors here couldn't have been more perfect for their roles. We have the unbelievably gorgeous and beautifully mannered Natalie Wood in a role that requires impeccable conviction and plausibility, given the tender nature, Robert Culp in an equally uncomfortable but rewarding role, with Elliott Gould and Dyan Cannon assuming the role of the uppity parents trying to comprehend this "sexual openness" these couples speak of. All of these actors, equipped with Mazursky's and co-writer Larry Tucker's biting dialog, help illustrate the generation gap where sex is a revered act that should be kept on the down-low or sex is an act embraced and discussed.

With Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, Mazursky and Tucker ask the biggest questions I've seen them ask yet. Is free love something to embrace or condemn? Is swinging, wife-swapping, or an orgy lethal to a marriage and its long-term prosperity in health? Is it healthy in itself to casually dismiss an affair or harp on it and risk losing the one you love? To show that these questions are still very much alive and the idea of sexual openness is still one discussed today, the modern-day film equivalent to Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice is Joe Swanberg's Drinking Buddies, a film that clearly is influenced by Mazursky's film right down to its poster. Both films explore the aforementioned ideas, only one takes a much younger cast and puts them to use while the other takes couples grappling with an older age and simply trying to fit in. Both films are two of my favorite romantic comedies to boot, as well.

Production Credits
Director - Paul Mazursky
Screenplay - Paul Mazursky
Screenplay - Larry Tucker
Producer - Larry Tucker
Executive Producer - Mike Frankovich
Production Manager - William J. O'Sullivan
Assistant Director - Anthony Ray
Director of Photography - Charles B. Lang
Editor - Stuart H. Pappe
Music - Quincy Jones

Cast Credits

Natalie Wood - Carol
Robert Culp - Bob
Elliott Gould - Ted
Dyan Cannon - Alice
Horst Ebersberg - Horst
Lee Bergere - Emilio
Donald F. Muhich - Psychiatrist
Noble Lee Holderread Jr. - Sean
K. T. Stevens - Phyllis
Celeste Yarnall - Susan
Lunn Borden - Cutter
Greg Mullavey - Group Leader
Andre Philippe - Oscar
Diane Berghoff - Myrna
John Halloran - Conrad
Susan Merin - Toby
Jeffrey Walker - Roger
Vicki Thal - Jane
Joyce Easton - Wendy
Howard Dayton - Howard
Alida Ihle - Alida
John Brent - Dave
Garry Goodrow - Bert
Carol O'Leary - Sue
Constance Egan - Norma
Lynn Borden - Cutter
Paul Mazursky - Screaming Man At Institute



Best Screenplay - Paul Mazursky - 1969 New York Film Critics Circle
Best Screenplay - Larry Tucker - 1969 New York Film Critics Circle
Best Supporting Actress - Dyan Cannon - 1969 New York Film Critics Circle


Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy - Dyan Cannon - 1969 Hollywood Foreign Press Association
New Star of the Year - Female - Dyan Cannon - 1969 Hollywood Foreign Press Association
Best Cinematography - Charles B. [ph] Lang - 1969 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Best Original Screenplay - Paul Mazursky - 1969 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Best Original Screenplay - Larry Tucker - 1969 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Best Supporting Actor - Elliott Gould - 1969 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Best Supporting Actress - Dyan Cannon - 1969 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences


Del autor de <Next stop Greenwich Village> que entró en programación con escasa fortuna pese a sus merecimientos en el último festival de Cannes, una película anterior en la filmografía de Mazursky, que en su tiempo se juzgaba demasiado atrevida, tanto en un filme como en otro, Mazursky nos habla con humor de la sociedad norteamericana: En <Bob...> bajo un aspecto que hace ocho años, en la época de realización de la película, suponía una crónica de costumbres bastante picante. Hoy, la temática puede estar superada. Pero no aquí, donde la censura nos ha mantenido en una etapa de inocencia, que parecía hacernos invulnerables a los males de la sociedad permisiva. Que son los que con una ironía de buen gusto, canta Mazursky en lo que refiere a las relaciones matrimoniales e inter-matrimoniales. Con <Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice> pasa Mazursky a la realización cinematográfica. Dispone de un buen guión, de una intencionalidad critica bajo la óptica del humor y sabe sacar el máximo partido de sus interpretes, Dyan Cannon y Elliot Gould <bordan> sus papeles en compañía de Natalie Wood y Robert Culp. Una vida conyugal que pasa las fronteras de lo que hasta el momento se ha visto en la pantalla dentro de los esquemas de la familia burguesa. Pero Mazursky se apuntaba un tanto en aquellos momentos en que daba a su comedia un tono atrevido pero dejaba la sensación de que lo fundamental quedaba inamovible. En todo caso, se trataba solo de hacer comedia de la vida cotidiana en una sociedad que pretendía liberarse. Mazursky que comenzó como actor, y ha llevado a cabo una buena dirección teatral en Broadway y en la televisión, consigue una perfecta situación de los personajes en su circunstancia. Lleva el ritmo de la historia con buen pulso y atiende perfectamente al diálogo, lo que es básico en el tipo de comedia que ha pensado. La cinta era un buen principio para Mazursky que en 1974, dirigía <Harry and tonto> con la que Art Cartney obtenía el Oscar en Hollywood. <Próxima parada Greenwich Village> (1976) representa una meta más ambiciosa para el realizador norteamericano. Es un filme en el que abunda las anotaciones autobiográficas. En su primer largometraje, sin embargo, Mazursky demostraba ya su ingenio en la creación de los tipos y su dominio de las situaciones humorísticas. Angeles MASO



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