Divorce, Cali-style

Blume in Love

Director Paul Mazursky always has struck me as sort of a Woody Allen West. He’s what might have happened had Woody decided there was more to California than making a right turn on a red light; at his best, Mazursky was as attuned to the sensibilities of neurotic Angelenos as Allen was to the sensibilities of neurotic Manhattanites.

The new-to-DVD Blume in Love, while not his best film (I vote for Enemies, A Love Story, still the greatest movie ever made about Jewish guilt), is textbook early Mazursky: an unfaithful husband (George Segal) and a strong-willed yet self-destructive wife (Susan Anspach) delving ass-backward from their successful, straight-arrow lifestyles into the prevailing counterculture of the time.

Segal plays Stephen Blume, an emotionally deceptive divorce lawyer who gets caught cheating on his wife of six years. The marriage is over immediately, and the ex-spouses attempt to conceal their wounds through psychotherapy, recreational sex and drugs and post-hippie flim-flam.

As a comedic insight into the mixed-up values of the early-’70s Me culture, Blume in Love makes a nice bookend with Mazursky’s 1969 feature debut, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, a comedic insight into the mixed-up values of late-’60s hippie culture. Here the filmmaker presents a time capsule of Los Angeles mores circa 1973—the vegetarian restaurants, the swingers clubs, the VFW rally as hip scene, the man who talks about deeding his land to God—but he also shows good intuition about the painful dissolution of long-term relationships, like scabs that refuse to heal.

The film isn’t perfect; it takes a while to get up to speed and tends to ramble. But it does feature an indelible performance from Kris Kristofferson, utterly charming as Elmo, the Kristofferson-esque free spirit who shacks up with Anspach but still befriends Segal.