Remember this movie, all you older folk like me? Bet you do, if only vaguely; this was the suggestive photo that appeared in the promos:
Something made me think of the movie the other day, and I became curious enough about how the film—that quintessential artifact of the encounter movement of the 60s—has held up over these well-nigh forty years since its 1969 release to order it from Netflix and watch it, which I did last night.
Those of you who didn’t live through those times would probably find the film silly indeed, and rather boring at that. But it held my interest, in no small part due to its role in reminding me of those transformative and ultimately ridiculous and even destructive times.
The film’s message is essentially conservative; it especially mocks protagonists Bob and Carol (Robert Culp and Natalie Wood), who go to a weekend at an Esalen-like “Institute” and end up thinking they should jettison the rules of sexual monogamy while practicing an endlessly-disclosing and incredibly self-centered “honesty” about their feelings at all times. Their more traditional friends, Ted and Alice (Elliot Gould and Dyan Cannon, who are especially good in this movie) have some—err—problems with the idea. Although both couples eventually succumb to experimentation, the supposed come-on of the orgy scene in the photo above is tempered by their realization that monogamy has its charms, after all.
Other tangential observations are: (1) as you can see from the photo, the now-ubiquitous chest-hair removal for men that I commented on here had fortunately not yet begun; (2) the movie is worth watching if only for the fashions; (3) Natalie Wood was very beautiful; (4) the female stars are every bit as thin as stars today; and (5) there are a few very funny scenes, including one between Gould and Cannon in bed.
The movie is a caricature, of course. But it reminded me of some of the stupidest ideas of the 60s that have mercifully disappeared for the most part: love beads for men (sported prominently by Culp’s character), the conviction that full disclosure of thoughts/feelings is a plus, and lengthy weekend sessions featuring all-night encounter groups.