Plot: What’s it about?
For the last month, one of the primary focuses of Twilight Time’s February releases was marriage. With releases Husbands and Wives, My Cousin Rachel, Dragonwyck, and Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, February is shaping up to be one of the most memorable months in Twilight Time’s history. I sat down with my wife to watch Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice this weekend and we had a blast watching it.
The film begins with Bob Sanders (Robert Culp) and his wife Carol (Natalie Wood) driving through the hills of California to a commune. Bob is a documentary filmmaker and a bit domineering. His wife Alice is loving and a little more
submissive to his whims. As Alice and Bob indulge in scream therapy and other new age practices, they come to know each other better and begin to analyze their own feelings and thoughts. For the couple, it is a breakthrough in their marriage. In response to this weekend away, they immediately share the good news with their best friends Ted (Elliott Gould) and Alice (Dyan Cannon.) Ted and Alice are more straight-laced and taken aback by their friends’ new way of expressing themselves that relies heavily upon honesty to the point of analyzing what somebody truly thinks of somebody else’s hair style and what that makes them feel. When Bob goes out of town to San Francisco for a shoot, he returns home and informs Alice that he has had an affair. Surprisingly enough, she does not get upset but instead finds it beautiful that he would be so honest. The next time that Bob and Carol meet with Ted and Alice, they smoke some weed and Carol informs them that Bob had an affair and that she is not upset. This revelation has a dramatic impact on the relationship of Ted and Alice while Bob and Carol’s relationship goes through some shifts simultaneously that reflect the time in which the film was made.
This is a fantastic movie. I loved it so much that I have already watched it a second time. This is essentially a comedy of manners. As Bob and Carol expand what they find acceptable in their marriage it has dramatic impacts on their best friends. A lot of the comedy comes from the reactions to Bob and Carol as they shift towards new age ideas about sex and exploring their feelings. Whether watching a restaurant adjust to Carol’s newfound caring for her waiter, or watching Alice’s disgusted reactions to Bob’s affair, the film succeeds largely by poking fun at the way in which people react to actions that are unlike their own. The cast is perfect for the film. Natalie Wood is gorgeous and a comedic anchor for the film. Every reaction she has towards Bob is a combination of honest affection and comedically timed acceptance. By playing the part straight, the laughs are genuine. The whole cast follows this pattern. Dyan Cannon is excellent as Alice. She is given the heavy task of reacting to every new wave indulgence that Bob and Carol attempt, and she excels in her performance. Elliot Gould is hilarious as the beleaguered husband that is stuck between his wife’s disgust and his acceptance of Bob’s actions. I laughed the hardest at the film whenever he was onscreen. Robert Culp is an interesting choice for the character of Bob, but he really does a fantastic job in the role. One thing that is pointed out in the commentary track is that he provided his own wardrobe. If this is the case, he could not have been better cast in the role.
Watching the film, it is hard to believe that this was the first film that Paul Mazursky directed. It is beautifully shot by the very capable Charles Lang who had shot films like Some Like It Hot and A Farewell To Arms. This film is confident from the first frames of the film as Quincy Jones’ fantastic arrangements play and the commune is first shown. Paul Mazursky has skill and was more than able to take a subject that automatically makes people uncomfortable – group sex and infidelity- and made something very subtle and classier than it would ever be expected. This film is fantastic. Highly recommended.
Video: How’s it look?
The film, licensed from Columbia Pictures, features a 1080p with an AVC encoded 1.85:1 image. This is a great looking film thanks to the steady hands of classic cinematographer Charles Lang. Mazursky had a good idea of what he wanted to do and his ideas translate to film well. While this transfer may not be as beautiful as some of the recent Sony transfers, I was very pleased with how this film looked on Blu-ray. Clarity is very good. Colors are life like and natural. A thin layer of grain is apparent but quite normal with film. Looks great overall!
Audio: How’s it sound?
Twilight Time have provided a DTS-HD MA Mono track. It has excellent fidelity to the original elements. This film has an excellent soundtrack thanks to some arrangements by Quincy Jones of some Handel and Hallelujah chorus alongside the great Hal David and Burt Bacharach penned “What the World Needs Now Is Love” sung by Jackie Deshannon. Those songs all sound excellent. Dialogue is crystal clear and I think this is a good example of how great a mono track can sound.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Isolated Music Track
- Audio Commentary – the triumphant return of Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo, Twilight Time’s in-house film historians, leads to a fantastic track full of information and opinions. Like their other tracks, it is a laid back and lighthearted track.
- Audio Commentary – Dyan Cannon, Paul Mazursky, Elliot Gould, and Robert Culp collaborated on this track three of the four main actors and the director were all still alive. Since then Mazursky and Robert Culp have both passed away. This is an enjoyable track that becomes more important with half of the commentators passing on.
- Tales of Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice – an archival interview with the great writer/director. This interview was so impressive that I purchased his memoir before the interview was over.
The Bottom Line
Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice is a hilarious and clever comedy that is also very genuine and lovable. With great performances, a clever script, great music by Quincy Jones, and cinematography by Charles Lang and direction by Paul Mazursky, this film is a certifiable classic. The Blu-ray features archival featurettes and commentaries from the DVD release along with a brand-new commentary track by Twilight Time’s Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo. This gets my highest recommendation. It’s a great film.