Archive for Paul Mazursky

Love and Death on Long Island

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 1, 2021 by dcairns

I remembered director Frank Perry and writer Susan Isaacs’ comic murder mystery COMPROMISING POSITIONS (1985) being decent, and bemoaned its lack of availability in anything but a scuzzy VHS rip (open matte, so it can at least be cropped to the right aspect ratio). It doesn’t stand the test of time though. I don’t really believe that films date, per se: but what was always wrong stands out more sharply in time.

Susan Sarandon and Raul Julia are great together, though. As RJ gets more scenes the film starts to come to life. And I’m always happy when Joan Allen and Josh Mostel show up in something. Mary Beth Hurt, unfortunately, has been encouraged/permitted to play her part “sassy,” (ugh), with for some reason a Texan twang, stepping on all her quips very hard. This is the kind of dialogue you should throw away, because it’s not hilarious but could conceivably approximate the kind of wit regular people might toss off — so underplaying and naturalism would be your friend.

Frank Perry was attempting to bounce back from MOMMIE DEAREST and MONSIGNOR so it wouldn’t be surprising if his confidence had taken a hit and he was tempted to overcompensate. He does have able assistance from Barry Sonnenfeld: the compositions are good (once I got VLC to crop it correctly). The production and costume design are hideous, which I guess is deliberate, but the story isn’t really a satire of Long Islanders’ awful taste, so this seems like meaningless snark. Again, perhaps directorial anxiety is to blame. Rather than the horrified wonderment the decor of GOODFELLAS or MARRIED TO THE MOB inspire, each successive room simply makes you cringe.

This misjudgement extends, I feel, to the casting of Joe Mantegna as the inappropriately sexual dentist whose murder starts the story off. Maybe they just chose him because he’s a good actor, which he is, but his effect, being not a conventionally handsome human, is to add an extra, superfluous layer of creep to an already creepy character (pedodontist and paedophile). This guy is supposed to be a successful Lothario, so someone like Frank Langella (a Perry alumnus), who could give him a superficial, sleazy glamour, would have been wholly appropriate. Making him wholly repellent is another example of the movie slamming its fist down on the wrong button.

A great shame Sarandon and Julia didn’t get a better vehicle for their talents and chemistry — but a few years before, Paul Mazursky cast them both in TEMPEST, which I ought to see…


Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on December 28, 2018 by dcairns

NOT my Christmas haul — these goodies came through the door on Christmas Eve, presents from the good fairies at Arrow Academy. I have contributed video essays to both BOB AND CAROL AND TED AND ALICE and BORN YESTERDAY, which was nothing but pleasure apart from the lawyers. But at this festive time of goodwill, even lawyers may find forgiveness, so it is told.

You can procure almost identical items below ~

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice [Blu-ray]
Born Yesterday [Blu-ray]

The Tragically Hip

Posted in Fashion, FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on March 20, 2018 by dcairns

I only quasi-remembered I LOVE YOU, ALICE B. TOKLAS — which was to have been Paul Mazursky’s first film as director until Peter Sellers became paranoid-jealous about Mazursky and his wife Britt Ekland. This makes for a funny and eye-popping chapter in the Mazursky memoirs. Mazursky never makes the obvious point that in no universe known to man would a humble screenwriter who looked like Paul Mazursky have much of a chance with Britt Ekland. Maybe that never occurred to him as a defence. But he’s eloquent on the weird guilt feelings that accompany honest denials of something one genuinely didn’t do. Funny running gag of all his associates asking him, perfectly seriously, “WHY DID YOU DO IT, PAUL?”

Sellers’ demented antipathy dimmed enough for PM to be allowed on set and so he was able to contribute his thoughts and help Hy Averback, a TV director acting as traffic cop on this. Mazursky and Averback only got their shots after Sellers’ first choices, Federico Fellini and Ingmar Bergman, turned it down.

The movie depicts Harold Fine, a Jewish lawyer due to marry a rather annoying woman he doesn’t love out of sheer inertia, who is seduced into the counterculture by hippy chick Leigh Taylor-Young (Mazursky for some strange reason displaces her hyphen to between Leigh and Taylor, but apparently that’s not where she likes it). Fiona expressed revulsion at this doe-eyed moron character, and started to feel sorry for the shrewish fiancée, played by Joyce Van Patten with a lot of grating verve. Surprisingly, the film is shrewd enough to anticipate this so that when Sellers ditches her at the altar, he says that although this is unforgivable, going through with it and ruining her life would be far worse. “Okay, that’s fair enough,” said Fiona.

As in WHAT’S NEW PUSSYCAT, Sellers’ hippy wig seems to be making minimal effort to convince.

Then we get the film’s funniest business — Sellers attempts to drop out be a successful hippy., opening his apartment to anyone who wants a place to crash. Mazursky had to step in and advise the star that he was playing it too sweetly — influenced by the huge crush he’d developed on “Leigh-Taylor.” Sellers blew up and banished Mazursky from the set, but he DID adjust his performance and it’s very amusing indeed to see him lose his cool and become unhip again. The oppressive nightmare of the house full of hippies, like Groucho’s stateroom only with a palpable reek of patchouli and weed, is really funny-but-horrible, and does indeed turn out to be a nightmare —

Sellers awakens back at the altar — it’s all been THE LAST TEMPTATION OF HAROLD. But he runs out again, searching for the elusive Third Way between middle-class self-abnegation and irresponsible self-indulgence.

It’s ALMOST a satisfying ending, and surprisingly the harsh view of hippiedom is kind of refreshing now, but since the film never looks at issues like Vietnam, its swipes at straight society are pretty toothless and the choice between sides comes down to castrating Jewish mother & wife, consumer goods, and booze on the one side, and flakey dimwit girlfriend, poverty and hash on the other. The wit of much of the writing and acting stops this from ringing hollow until the end, at which point there’s suddenly a delayed crashing chime that drowns out Elmer Bernstein’s infuriating earworm of a theme tune.