Friday, March 4, 2011

John and Mary (1969)

The controversial characters appearing in LIFE magazine
Peter Yates was masterful at entertaining us with films such as 'Bullitt and 'Breaking Away', but he also made a stark relationship film called 'John and Mary'. It is interesting to watch, if only because you get the sense that back when this film was released, a subject as trite as young people having one-night stands had only recently become commonplace in reality and had yet to be addressed in depth on the big screen.

They still don't know one another's names
The film was somewhat controversial, despite its minimal story. But today, it manages to work as a time capsule. It had probably been less than a decade by 1969 that people were able to admit intimacy could even occur out of wedlock. This was the same year when the wonderful 'Bob and Carole and Ted and Alice' questioned monogamy in the suburbs, for the middle aged folks trying to be swingers. Stories like these would certainly have no place as contemporary film subjects, since we've moved far beyond those topics. And there is an element that can at times be captivating about watching an of-the-moment classic film, like this one: the fact that it is not timeless. There is also something unique about Dustin Hoffman and Mia Farrow, as John and Mary, dancing around one another in an awkward singles match of sorts. 
Hoffman and Farrow were the hip stars of their time
The two backstories for John and Mary are told in flashbacks, which is a good thing since they are mostly coy with one another and have a hard time getting to know each other, as we see them throughout the-day-after their one night (after meeting at a singles bar) –– which is essentially all this story is about. They are trying to navigate their way through their next day together. If it weren't for flashbacks to their previous relationships, we'd have no indication why they are behaving the way they do with one another. 
Beautiful Mia Farrow as Mary
I find myself wishing they could stop speaking in code and be more straightforward with each other, as I highly doubt people generally spoke this way in 1969. I expect at least one of them to be a little less uptight about the whole thing. They do their best to avoid getting close, while they can't resist wanting to. In the end, they decide to move in together, so it wasn't exactly a one night stand. And I guess not much has changed after all, since from what I've noticed, single people are still playing those games (little coded masquerades) today.

And to take us out, here is a video I made for 'This Masquerade' –– a beautiful tune in which Karen Carpenter sounds her most sophisticated. It is one of my earlier video montages (you can find many more on my YouTube channel) and it includes a few lovely moments from 'John and Mary'. 

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