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Paul Mazursky: A True American Original

 

Tuesday, May 1-----For those of you who only know Paul Mazursky as Larry David's nemesis on the HBO series CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, let me tell you....you are missing a lot. For audiences who came of age in the 1970s and 1980s, Mazursky was one of the important filmmakers of his time. Falling somewhere between Woody Allen's self-conscious angst and Mel Brooks' baudy burlesques, the best of Mazursky combined deep emotional drama with soaring comedic heights, to produce films that were at once accessible and complex, enjoyable and repugnant, thought-provoking and seamlessly entertaining. 

Mazursky directed his last feature film in 1996....a not very distinguished comedy titled FAITHFUL with a woefully miscast Cher and schmaltzy over-the-top supporting turns by Chazz Palminteri and Ryan O'Neal (and Mazursky himself). In the ten years since, Mazursky has mainly been an actor for hire in other peoples' projects, returning full cycle to his first job in the business....as an up-and-coming character actors in the Hollywood of the 1950s and 1960s (locate his cherubic tough kid in the classroom classic THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE).

But Mazursky is back, not only with a directorial project, but also as an elder statesman of the kind of edgy zeitgeist cinema that he perfected during his heyday. For those who fondly remember those films on their initial release and for those who will be discovering him anew, the Film Society of Lincoln Center is offering THE MAGIC OF MAZURSKY, an 11-film retrospective that clearly illustrates why he mattered then and still matters now. This is the first major retrospective of the writer, director, actor, producer and New York native, and runs May 4-10 at the Film Society's flagship The Walter Reade Theater. The series includes 11 Mazurksy master works, starting with his first big screenwriting success, the Peter Sellars counterculture comedy I LOVE YOU ALICE B. TOKLAS and his directorial debut, the influential sex satire BOB  & CAROL & TED & ALICE. Subsequent critical and popular successes to be screened include: NEXT STOP GREENWICH VILLAGE, BLUME IN LOVE, HARRY AND TONTO, MOSCOW ON THE HUDSON,  AN UNMARRIED WOMAN, MOON OVER PARADOR and ENEMIES: A LOVE STORY.

The Film Society will also present the New York premiere  of Mazursky's first film in a decade and his first documentary work: YIPPEE: A JOURNEY TO JEWISH JOY. The film is a soul-searching personal odyssey of the annual pilgrimage to a small village in the Ukraine where some 25,000 Jews congregate to pay their respects to Rebbe Nachman, founder of the Breslov Hasidic dynasty. Mazursky, who has been a secular Jew his entire life, brings true passion to this film, a project that clearly represents a desire to connect to his Jewish roots.

In his prolific career, Mazurksy was nominated for the Oscar five times (ironically only as a writer and producer, never as a director). Known as a film artist who knew how to draw top notch performances from his cast (where they ever better in anyone else's films?), Mazursky worked with a constellation of talents, including John Cassavetes, Jill Clayburgh, Dyan Cannon, Richard Dreyfuss, Raul Julia, Elliot Gould, Gena Rowlands, Susan Sarandon, Peter Sellers, George Segal, Christopher Walken, Shelley Winters, Natalie Wood and Robin Williams.  In 1974, he directed Art Carney to an Academy Award for Best Actor in HARRY AND TONTO, and in 1978, made actress Jill Clayburgh a major star for her lauded turn as the jilted wife in AN UNMARRIED WOMAN. Mazursky himself will be present at many of the screenings and for question and answer sessions. For more information on the film series, film schedules and how to purchase tickets, log on to the website of the Film Society of Lincoln Center: www.filmlinc.com

Sandy Mandelberger, Film New York Editor

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The Ultimate Guide to the New York Film, Video and New Media Scene.

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