PAUL MAZURSKY’S ALEX IN WONDERLAND

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Somewhere in Movie Heaven, there exists a double bill with Richard Rush’s The Stunt Man and Paul Mazursky’s Alex in Wonderland. I’ve seen this film a few times now, and it’s never not entrancing or fully engrossing. Released in 1970, this was Mazursky’s eagerly awaited follow up to his hugely successful Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, with the story centering on a movie director named Alex Morrison (Donald Sutherland, incredible), who is stressing out over what to do next after his first movie was a huge success. Sounds a bit like reality for Mazursky, no? Co-written with Larry Tucker, Mazursky used his second feature as a venting and homage session, crossing his real life insecurities as a filmmaker with the age old narrative conceit of an artist struggling with a crisis of artistic conscious. He even cast himself as a Hollywood producer (in one of the film’s best scenes), further upping the satirical spin to the picture. Federico Fellini and Jeanne Moreau also made cameos which boosted the wink-wink inspiration factor, with Mazursky and Tucker even explicitly referencing 8½. The heady narrative dabbles in the past, present, and possible future, with thematic nods to cinema history in general explored all throughout, while the script constantly tackled the almost impossible balance that artists face between family life and “the biz.” Ellen Burstyn played Alex’s put-upon wife while László Kovács handled the varied, dreamy, and always interesting cinematography. This is a seriously cool movie that gets better each time I revisit.

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