Paul and George (But Not John or Ringo), Together on Stage

Filmmaker Paul Mazurksy (pictured with mic in hand) had the audience in stitches at last night's Q&A with him and frequent writing partner Leon Capetanos. Highlight of the night was a truly hilarious tale of how Paul roped Federico Fellini, whom he had long admired, into making his on-screen debut in Paul's "Alex in Wonderland".

Filmmaker Paul Mazurksy (pictured with mic in hand) had the audience in stitches at Wednesday night's Q&A with him and frequent writing partner Leon Capetanos. Highlight of the night was a truly hilarious tale of how Paul roped Federico Fellini, whom he had long admired, into making his on-screen debut in Paul's Alex in Wonderland.

Here’s some late-breaking news that I was able to announce from the stage at Wednesday night’s kick-off to our Through a Glass Brightly: A Paul Mazursky Retrospective:

Swing by the Skirball on April 3rd to watch Blume in Love—the second evening screening in the series—and you’ll get a chance to hear filmmaker Paul Mazursky in conversation with actor George Segal.

Paul, of course, was the writer and director of the 1973 drama about a Beverly Hills divorce lawyer who’s got his own problems in love and life. Winner of the 2010 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Lifetime Achievement Award, Paul was the creative mind behind a run of memorable films, including Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, Harry & Tonto (my personal favorite of all Mazurskies), Enemies: A Love Story, and Down and Out in Beverly Hills. (For younger audiences, he may be better known for his appearances on HBO, on both The Sopranos and Curb Your Enthusiasm.)

George, meanwhile, played Stephen Blume, Blume in Love‘s title character, not to mention parts in The Longest Day, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Fun with Dick and Jane, and too many to list here. George phoned us out of the blue when he heard that the Skirball was going to screen the movie in which he gave arguably his best performance and which was called “oddly affecting…. a restless, appealing, sometimes highly comic contemporary memoir” by The New York Times back in June 1973. Clearly, even after a long, successful career as a film, television and stage actor, Blume in Love was important to George.

 

Mazursky and Segal were hailed for bringing this movie to life, but the film also helped make musician Kris Kristofferson a silver-screen star. Check him out in this trailer where he holds his own against Segal, Susan Anspach, and Marsha Mason.

 

The film made an impact on me, too. I was underage when it first came out, but I saw it a few years later when I was in college. I remember feeling like it was a window I’d never looked through before, a glimpse at adult relationships that didn’t totally make sense to me but let me in on how messed up they can be. Here’s this attorney, counseling his clients who are suffering the pain of marriages-gone-bad while he willfully destroys his own. I won’t give it all away here, but I can say this: When I saw it, I was utterly fascinated by this character of a man making a huge mistake and trying to make it right…. only to proceed to do the worst thing he could ever do.

Paul’s great achievement with this movie about falling deeper and deeper in love and figuring out whether a post-marital relationship is ever truly possible is that you end up loving these really flawed, often loathsome central figures. Paul renders Blume as painfully relatable. Like so many filmmakers of the 1970s, Paul turned his camera on very real situations—in this case divorce—and made audiences face up to what was going on in everyday American life.

The more I began rewatching Paul’s work for this retrospective, that’s what struck me most about his films: a profound humanity to all of his characters and a genuine curiosity about the human condition. I also appreciate how Paul has documented the American Jewish experience—both explicitly and implicitly—for much of his career. What’s more, throughout his filmmaking, Paul has been sure to acknowledge his artistic influences, both by remaking films of some of the great auteurs and using their work as a jumping-off point for his own explorations.

Blume in Love is worth seeing on the big screen, and even more so when followed by Paul and George (but not John or Ringo) live on stage. Don’t miss it.

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