While its particulars remain rooted in the sexual revolution of the late 1960s, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice is remarkably timeless as a classic comedy of manners. Making an impressive, high-profile directorial debut after success as a screenwriter, Paul Mazursky took the pulse of California society better than anyone, especially with this well-cast, sharply observant comedy that begins when sophisticated couple Bob and Carol (Robert Culp, Natalie Wood) attend a weekend retreat that opens their eyes to the possibilities of open marriage and mutual acceptance of extramarital affairs. When they reveal their newfound liberties to straightlaced couple Ted and Alice (Elliott Gould, Dyan Cannon), the subtle, behavioral richness of the largely improvisational screenplay (by Mazursky and Larry Tucker) rises to the surface, conveyed through the kind of natural rhythms and pauses that were dramatically in vogue in the fast-changing Hollywood of 1969. The film hasn't lost any of its punch, perhaps because American sexual politics have returned to the conservatism that existed before Bob and Carol emerged as the signature comedy of the swinging sixties. The absence of the late Natalie Wood is the only drawback to the DVD's excellent commentary, which reunites Mazursky, Culp, Gould, and Cannon in a casual atmosphere of humorous reminiscence. --Jeff Shannon
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