A Cinema of Real Feeling: Remembering Paul Mazursky
Paul Mazursky made movies about what was happening around him. Mazursky honed in on the cultural climates of the eras during which his films were produced. Whether it was the strife of marital discourse found in the 60s and 70s (from Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice’s freewheeling "free love" sentiment to An Unmarried Woman’s study of sexual liberation) or the timeless theme of searching for a renewed, meaningful identity (Tempest, Moscow on the Hudson and, to some extent, Down and Out in Beverly Hills), Mazursky told stories of the moment and more effectively, presented a cinema of palpable feelings.
Mazursky was, first, a prolific Hollywood character actor; he even played Tinseltown types in several of his own films. Perhaps it was this affinity, this affection for actors that lent gravitas to his directing of his own films. Many of his films were about the upper middle class: people with careers, relationship problems, anxieties about the economy, and the overwhelming dread of just being “ordinary.” And yet, Mazursky really loved these characters. He watched them. He followed them. His camera roved the interiors of homes and other locales with patient, observant contemplation. Because of his delicate orchestration of writing, music, and themes, Mazursky’s work as a filmmaker set him apart from his peers. In his time, nobody listened to or looked at this group of damaged souls with as much bruising honesty and scathing humor as Mazursky did. In a 1978 interview with Film Comment, Mazursky addressed this: “[Middle-class life is] on the edge of soap opera and the edge of real; it’s alienated and confused, almost tragic. It’s become popularized in one way or another, but I haven’t seen it dealt with much in American cinema on a level which communicates real feeling. I’ve seen it dealt with through humor, a bit. But not with real feeling.” Thanks to Mazursky’s distinct body of work as director, we all have the gift of seeing these cinematic works of “real feeling” again and again.
Nelson Carvajal is an independent digital filmmaker, writer and content creator based out of Chicago, Illinois. His digital short films usually contain appropriated content and have screened at such venues as the London Underground Film Festival. Carvajal runs a blog called FREE CINEMA NOW which boasts the tagline: "Liberating Independent Film And Video From A Prehistoric Value System." You can follow Nelson on Twitter here.