Paul on Mazursky

Sam Was­son
  • Review
By – December 5, 2011
Sam Was­son is def­i­nite­ly a fan of Paul Mazursky, the writer-direc­tor of such 1970’s-era films as An Unmar­ried Woman, Bob & Car­ol & Ted & Alice, Har­ry and Ton­to, and Next Stop, Green­wich Vil­lage. This vol­ume of inter­views sets out to pay homage to Mazursky much as Fran­cois Truf­faut paid homage to Hitch­cock in his inter­views with the mas­ter of sus­pense.

Was­son laments that Mazursky is wide­ly acknowl­edged to be wide­ly under­rat­ed (para­dox­i­cal as that may seem), and he labors might­i­ly through­out to bol­ster his subject’s rep­u­ta­tion. He right­ly observes that Mazursky is under­rat­ed large­ly because his sen­si­bil­i­ty is not pri­mar­i­ly cin­e­mat­ic.” As a writer with deep roots in stage act­ing, Mazursky’s prin­ci­pal con­cern was to put com­pelling sto­ries and per­for­mances on the screen, rather than to explore the bound­aries of what film can do as a visu­al medi­um. When the man­tle of great­ness is reserved for dis­tinc­tive inno­va­tors, rel­a­tive­ly unstyl­is­tic auteurs like Mazurksy eas­i­ly get lost in the shuf­fle.

Wasson’s efforts are not in vain, but they would have been more per­sua­sive if he had not pre­sumed that his read­ers would be as famil­iar with Mazursky’s work as he is. For bet­ter or worse, Mazursky’s films are not com­mon cur­ren­cy, so breezy dis­cus­sions of the orgy” and the rape,” lack­ing suf­fi­cient con­text, also lack force. While these ami­able con­ver­sa­tions between Was­son and his sub­ject may prompt a pause while chan­nel-surf­ing to take in a cable­cast of Down and Out in Bev­er­ly Hills, they are unlike­ly to send many read­ers rush­ing to Net­flix to order up their own Mazursky retrospectives. 
Bill Bren­nan is an inde­pen­dent schol­ar and enter­tain­er based in Las Vegas. Bren­nan has taught lit­er­a­ture and the human­i­ties at Prince­ton and The Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go. He holds degrees from Yale, Prince­ton, and Northwestern.

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