One of the best things I’ve done all year is get to know the work of Paul Mazursky better, and Blume in Love, the first film where he was the solo writer as well as director, is easily one of the finest films I’ve seen from him yet. Resembling a series of memories, all hazy and restless and sudden and abrupt, this is a magnificent piece of storytelling, with Mazursky’s usual and amazingly perceptive emphasis on the human condition firmly in place. I loved Bruce Surtees’ constantly searching and intimate cinematography, and don’t get me started over how the film begins and ends with the same shot – brilliant! George Segal turned in a challenging and deeply complex performance; the rape sequence in the third act changes the film in a very unique and startling way. Susan Anspach delivered a fantastic, multifaceted piece of acting as a woman torn between intense feelings of love and rage, while Marsha Mason, in her screen debut, was able to paint a convincing and potent portrait of “the other woman,” something she’d be asked to do more than a few times in her career. And I must say, she really enjoyed taking her top off during her heyday! Some of the best scenes of the film involve Kris Kristofferson’s stoner lay-about, as he hooks up with Anspach after she and Segal divorce (due to his cavalier infidelity), and then becomes odd-couple friends with Segal in the most humorous of ways. Mazursky was always interested in people, in faces, in how we all interact and view the world, and I loved how this entire film felt like some sort of scattershot dream, complete with Segal’s stream of consciousness voice over. And I’ll always marvel how films from the 70’s had such an observant style, with shots looking off from the distance, allowing dialogue to be overlapped with images not containing the speaking actors, not to mention how films from the 70’s just STARTED, with no handholding or babying you through the first act. Bill Conti’s score is peppy in spots, pensive in others, and underscores the narrative without overpowering anything on screen. There’s so much casual humor in this film which keeps it from being as depressing as some of the narrative truly is, and Segal carries such an aching, wounded heart, that the film feels caught between sympathizing with him while also scorning him for his thoughtless, sometimes sickening behavior. I wonder how audiences reacted to “the big scene” in Blume in Love, the bit between Segal and Anspach which, on one hand, seems like a pretty obvious example of rape, but then, upon further contemplation (and post-film discussion), I don’t know what to feel, especially since critics at the time seemed to think nothing of it. All I know is – that scene NEVER makes it in a modern film. Whatever it was, it was another indication of Mazursky acknowledging the possibility for human failing, and while not condoning the behavior, it’s clear that he understood how two people could find themselves in that situation, with the same outcome, with the same set of shifting feelings. What a phenomenal piece of work that I can only assume will linger long in my memory banks.