Sunday, January 2, 2011

Donald Sutherland & Ellen Burstyn in Alex In Wonderland 1970

"Now what?" That is essentially the dilemma Alex finds himself in after his first film is heralded as a winner by Hollywood insiders in this film about film directed by Paul Mazursky. He sets about trying to answer that question by taking meetings with producers, reading scripts, brainstorming with friends... His aimless approach leads him to question everything and settle on nothing. It's 8 1/2 for the hippie generation and it wades into both of those iconic entities up to its hips. Alex dabbles in acid and considers social unrest and class warfare as subjects for his sophomore effort, all the while, the film references Fellini's masterpiece directly with scenes parodying it and even features a cameo with the famed director. These self-indulgent, solipsistic scenes are juxtaposed with beautifully rendered moments with Alex and his family, scenes that are so simple and honest that they make the characters and even the more outrageous circumstances seem believable. Ellen Burstyn plays his patient wife and Viola Spolin, the improvisational acting teacher plays his mother. In addition to Fellini, look for a cameo by Jeanne Moreau and one by Mazursky himself, playing a mucho mod producer. There's an autobiographical element to this movie. Mazursky and his writing partner Larry Tucker had just come off the phenomenal success of Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969).

While not part of the cultural zeitgeist, this film is on the radar over at TCM. That's where I saw it. It isn't available on DVD, but there are VHS copies of it floating around. There are also a few scenes of it uploaded to YouTube. Above is the fantasy musical sequence featuring Jeanne Moreau uploaded by Filmboblog.

Obscurity factor: 8 (not on DVD, no online video readily available, occasionally on TV)