Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (Paul Mazursky / U.S., 1969):

The New Morality, assayed along the lines of Renoir’s Règle query: Do these people go too far, or not far enough? The Counterculture is a mountain retreat specializing in nude yoga, the outsiders are a bourgie documentarian (Robert Culp) and his wife (Natalie Wood), introduced smack in the middle of a marathon of New Age oozing. Declaring themselves freed from societal norms, they mix beads and turtlenecks, pass the ganja pipe around, and replace traditional filters with touchy-feely ones. ("I feel we’re sharing something very beautiful," Wood beams after hearing Culp’s extramarital confessions.) The faddish patois quickly reaches the Beverly Hills couple’s friends (Dyan Cannon, Elliott Gould), who are startled, mortified, curious. Benignly erected on knowing observation and flossy anecdote, Paul Mazursky’s cultural mood-ring merrily mingles mod flash with Old Hollywood (Charles Lang photographed it, ferchrissakes!), finding its rhythm in quite long scenes that zigzag with cabaret timing. The bedroom duet between an irritable Cannon and a horned-up Gould segues into the wife’s psychiatry session, where Cannon goes through an entire glossary of Freudian slips before the shrink’s Mock Turtle gaze. Faced with real-world application of free-love philosophy, Culp’s wannabe hepcat squirms from anger to bewilderment to self-induced mellowness before being able to share a glass of scotch with the tennis instructor he caught in Wood’s boudoir. (His advice to the tempted Gould: "You got the guilt anyway, man. Don’t waste it.") Faces and Alice’s Restaurant chart a similar trajectory, Mazursky steers it to a Las Vegas hotel room and to Gould’s slump-shouldered little sigh as he climbs onto the bed where his mate-swapping buds await. "It’s only a physical thing," but is it? The aborted orgy spills into the Strip to be gruesomely serenaded by Burt Bacharach, which, as much as Godard’s concurrent collages of Marxist juveniles, asks what in the hell happened to the Revolution. With Horst Ebersberg, K.T. Stevens, Lee Bergere, Greg Mullavey, and Donald F. Muhich.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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