Top Ten Paul Mazursky Films

This day saw the announcement that director and actor Paul Mazursky has died. Famous for his off-beat romantic comedies, he was often compared to Woody Allen but never reached the same level of success. His films often had Oscar-winning performances and he would take actors and put them out of their comfort zone. His films from the 70’s dealt with people take control of their lives, mainly in a sexual way, like one of his most famous films, Bob And Carol And Ted And Alice, which looked at wife swapping. You may not have heard of most of these films, which is a sad reflection of how forgotten his work really is but well worth checking out, if you get the chance.

10. Alex In Wonderland (1970)

Mazursky’s follow-up to his smash hit, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, sees Donald Sutherland as a director struggling with the success of his first film and living a mix of fantasy and reality as he considers his next move. Very dated now and in places, a little dull, it is made more interesting to know this follows Mazursky’s own struggles and Sutherland’s central performance.

9. Willie And Phil (1980)

Mazursky’s love of International cinema is shown here with his remake of Truffaut’s Jules Et Jim, with Margot Kidder as the centre of attention from Ray Sharkey and Michael Ontkean over a decade. It has some moments of sweetness and how friends can deal with being lovers but it lacks the majesty of the original and Mazursky’s film was always built up for a fall when remaking such a classic.

8. Blume In Love (1973)

George Segal plays a divorce lawyer with his own problems, that of a womaniser but when his wife divorces him, he finds it hard to fall out of love with her, no matter how many women he sleeps with. A gentle sex comedy with a solid cast including Susan Anspach and Kris Kristofferson. Very much a film of its time.

7. Scenes From A Mall (1991)

Satire set in the world of the Mall as Woody Allen and Bette Midler play a married couple on their 16th anniversary, who confess about their infidelities and bicker about life in general. Made all the better by having the two leads on biting form.

6. Moscow On The Hudson (1984)

Robin Williams is out of his comfort zone as a Russian musician who, while on a tour in new York, accidentally defects in Bloomingdale’s and finds life in America not as easy as it would first seem. A film of two halves with the more interesting being the first part, this has a nicely controlled performance from Williams.

5. Enemies: A Love Story (1989)

Based on Isaac Bashevis Singer’s novel, this is a touching, emotional tale of a ghost writer who finds himself torn between his current wife, his ex-wife who be believed was dead and an affair with a married woman. Ron Silver is superb as the writer with great support from Lena Olin, Margaret Sophie Stein and an Oscar nominated performance from Anjelica Huston.

4. Harry And Tonto (1974)

Oscar-winning performance from Art Carney as Harry, a live long New Yorker forced to leave the city on a journey of self discovery with his cat, Tonto. A film filled with wondrous characters, it’s thanks to Carney’s no-nonsense performance that manages to keep sentimentality at bay, even though the ending gets me every time.

3. An Unmarried Woman (1978)

Another film of self discovery from Mazursky as Jill Clayburgh plays a woman who has to find herself after her husband leaves her for a younger woman. Clayburgh won an Oscar nomination and the film won favourable critical success. With Alan Bates in support, this is one of Mazursky’s more classy affairs.

2. Down And Out In Beverly Hills (1986)

Mazursky scored big with this remake of Boudu Saved From Drowning, as Nick Nolte’s vagrant enters the confused life of wealthy Richard Dreyfuss and Bette Midler, where the family believe he is bringing with him the power of change. One of Mazursky’s most successful and funniest film.

1. Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969)

The film that started it all for Mazurksy as a director, a wife swapping sex comedy that caused huge controversy on its release, with a superb cast of Natalie Wood, Elliott Gould, Robert Culp and Dyan Cannon as the married couples who decide to add some spice to their relationships. Very 60’s in its attitude, it is now consider a classic of a time of promiscuity.


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