RIFFS 2014
July 1, 2014
Next Stop, The Waygonesphere
Paul Mazursky [1930-2014]

We relate this story to all the hip cats and kitties that have a soft spot for the world of heartfelt films. The last of a very fine movie director's life has made its way through the twisting sprockets, klacking sockets, the looping hockets, the lens and arc lamp, and now lies quietly on the take up reel. 35mm director Paul Mazursky has swooped the sphere at 84 years of age. He died June 30th at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

He was known for some wonderful and highly successful films such as "Harry and Tonto", "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice", and "Next Stop, Greenwich Village" but he also laid some groovy and thought provoking films on the populance such as "An Unmarried Woman" and "Alex In Wonderland". He was known to coax wonderful performances from the talented people in cast: Jill Clayburgh, Art Carney and Robin Williams amongst many.

He was sometimes in the cross hairs of the critics who accused him of sentimentality. His response in the Atlantic magazine was, "...my movies aren't sentimental, they just have sentiment."

In his early days he even tried standup comedy. It was in this context that he met Lord Buckley. In a 2005 interview with Roger Mexico and Michael Monteleone Mazursky remembered some of his time with The Lord:

  I came back to LA - we are now in 1960. And I kind of moved there with a wife and a child. I met this guy Ben Shapiro who owned The Renaissance. And Ben said, "Look, you could work - do your act - because I've seen you you're funny. They will be very sophisticated people at The Renaissance. All they do is drink cappuccinos and talk about art and literature." Hip, you know, at that time the hippie times. And at thirty-five bucks a week, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and all the cappuccinos you want. An offer I couldn't refuse. And I see I'm on the bill with Lord Buckley and Jimmy Witherspoon. Two of my heroes. And I got to know him a little bit. I mean, he was fabulous. He was like one of a kind, unique guy who was like a combination a country preacher - he was exotic, he was strange. He was like no other comedian I'd ever seen, if you wanted to call him a comedian, which I guess I would, you know. I'd seen Jonathan Winters, I'd seen Lenny Bruce, Mike and Elaine. "The Nazz" was something different. And to this day I'm not sure I could tell you what it was except it amused me and I laughed and there was something emotionally warm and touching about it.  

Paul Mazursky was a mensch. He was warm and kind and had time to spend with two fledgling filmmakers. One cannot sum up a person's life with the simple algebra contained in a quote but give this one a try anyways. This is Paul Mazursky speaking to People magazine about humor and life:

  "I find it impossible to spend much time with someone who doesn't have a real sense of humor. Humor is not just a way of looking at life. It's the way you experience things. Nobody lives life free of pain, but you can get past the pain with humor. It's what separates me from some very nice people who simply don't get the joke."