PAUL MAZURSKY’S AN UNMARRIED WOMAN — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Paul Mazursky’s 1978 film An Unmarried Woman is a film that works on every conceivable level, and I was particularly blown away by Jill Clayburgh’s mesmerizing performance as woman caught off guard by her husband’s sudden decision to separate, and who has to navigate the tricky waters of being a single woman after spending 15 years happily married to the man she so clearly saw herself growing old with. Everything in this film felt raw, heartfelt, and extremely direct, with Mazursky making repeatedly strong social comments on marriage, sex, friendship, and family. Bill Conti’s incredible score permits one to consistently play the air saxophone all throughout, and I loved the unhurried pace which allowed for moments – both big and small – to be showcased all throughout the narrative. In particular, the bit with Clayburgh dancing to Swan Lake in her underwear in the opening moments has to be considered one of the best random moments of spirited cinema that’s been captured (or at least that I’ve seen). Michael Murphy was great (his scene in the street with Clayburgh is an all-timer), Alan Bates stole every scene, Cliff Gorman had a helluva chest beaver, and each and every line from Mazursky’s well-honed script felt spot-on in terms of the naked honesty being explored by the various characters. Shot entirely on location in New York City, the unadorned cinematography by Arthur Ornitz was perfect in a naturalistic fashion, and as usual, Mazursky’s way with actors could be felt in every scene, as he so clearly valued his performer’s abilities to get to the heart of the scene with a minimal amount of fuss. And just as good as the film is the audio commentary that Mazursky and Clayburgh provided for the DVD, with Mazursky consistently ripping into the sad state of the current Hollywood bean-counter mentality, while also expressing his frustrations with the hypocritical behavior of the MPAA and the lack of nudity in modern motion pictures. Clayburgh also discusses the causal nudity that was so prevalent in movies back in those days, and it’s a further reminder of how Puritanical this country still is when it comes to sex on the big screen. For the love of Pete, they’re just nipples! Everyone’s got at least two…shocker I know! There’s no doubt that when people constantly say that the 1970’s were the best years for American cinema that they’re telling the truth.

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