Film-Forward Review: [BOB & CAROL & TED & ALICE]

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Directed by: Paul Mazursky.
Produced by: Larry Tucker.
Written by: Paul Mazursky & Larry Tucker.
Director of Photography: Charles Lang.
Edited by: Stuart H. Pappé.
Music by: Quincy Jones.
Released by: Columbia Tristar.
Country of Origin: USA. 105 min. Rated: R.
With: Natalie Wood, Robert Culp, Elliott Gould & Dyan Cannon.
DVD Features: Commentary with Robert Culp, Elliott Gould, Dyan Cannon & Paul Mazursky. "Tales of Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice" featurette. Trailers. English & Japanese subtitles.

Watching Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice is like being witness to a sideshow of sexual naughtiness. And naughty is indeed the perfect word to describe this semi-dated 1969 romp. Husbands and wives swap, characters talk openly about sex, and by God, people even get naked! What was surely taboo at the time now proves laughable (in a good way) in the film’s effort to shock the audience.

Robert Culp and Natalie Wood star as Bob and Carol, a rich California couple who attend a therapy retreat in aide of director Bob's documentary. Completely transformed, the couple attempts to impose their new outlook on life upon another married couple, Ted and Alice (Elliott Gould and Dyan Cannon). With the help of alcohol, and frankly, because bourgeois boredom leaves these characters with nothing better to do, all four wind up together in bed.

B&C&T&A is a pop culture treat. The music by Quincy Jones (Kill Bill) is perfect for a film determined to make you simultaneously gasp and laugh. Jones knows exactly when to stretch the high note and when to pull back and allow the image to speak for itself. The performances are dangerously effective, and the script is still admittedly strong even by today's crude standards. (There is, however, an ending that is nothing but absurd.) If this year's Closer were a comedy, you would think it was a remake of this perennial gambol.

DVD Extras: In the featurette, a 20-minute interview with Paul Mazursky, the director speaks about the original concept for the film (he and his wife, like Bob and Carol, were sucked in by a nudist colony covered in TIME magazine). Mazursky also touches upon his ill-fated time as a stand up comedian and its ultimate influence on his directorial style. The commentary, featuring the director and three of the four stars, is harmless fun, as the group laughs it way through the film, reminiscing about (among other things) getting high one too many times at the end of the day. Michael Belkewitch
December 15, 2004



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