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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Petulia (1968)

An eccentric socialite (Julie Christie), who's married, stumbles into the life of a divorced doctor (George C. Scott) and attempts to pull him out of his shell. Set in San Francisco at the end of the 60s, Richard Lester (A HARD DAY'S NIGHT) takes what appears at first to be an updated screwball comedy and plunges quickly into something darker. Christie's Petulia is a victim of domestic abuse and married to a psychotic (Richard Chamberlain), who may be a repressed homosexual, while Scott's Archie is shut off from his feelings. It's clear from the beginning that they're all wrong for each other but their emotional pain is so great that perhaps they can comfort each other. Lester and his cinematographer Nicholas Roeg and editor Antony Gibbs give us a fragmented puzzle as broken as its protagonists as it flash backs and flash forwards until its painfully poignant last shot. Its look and style may date it but its foundation is solid. One of the best films of its decade. The haunting score is by John Barry. With Shirley Knight, Joseph Cotten, Arthur Hill, Kathleen Widdoes, Pippa Scott, Rene Auberjonois, Austin Pendelton and Janis Joplin.    

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