Petulia (1968)

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Richard Lester directs Julie Christie, George C Scott and Richard Chamberlain in this trippy New Hollywood drama that explores the interactions between a free sprit trapped in a loveless marriage and surgeon entering into middle age alone for the first time. 

Jarring. Really fucking jarring. For the first hour of Petulia, it is difficult to know what the fuck you are watching. Oh so 1960s, MAN! A temporally discombobulated love affair between a divorced surgeon and a young housewife. The back story, motivation and personality are lost between the shifting, unrelated scenes. One thing that does shine through is their attraction to each other. Within this (purposely) avant garde mess, the leads have real chemistry. Julie Christie is what they’d call these days a manic pixie girl fantasy figure, only with the coolest boutique fashions ever. Scott brings his usual iron grip intensity and gruff charm to the fore. But then as the beautiful, unconnected jigsaw pieces, being flung in our faces by Lester, fall into place, a bigger picture emerges. The quirky romance gives way to a dark drama of control and compromise. The daft liberal hippy shit focusses in on a portrait of loneliness and treatise of personal freedom lost. With great stars, noble intentions, dazzling use of colour and… yes… a very distancing but eventually rewarding cut-up format, Petulia proves worth enduring through. Who knows a second watch might even be essential to discover all its melancholy qualities?

7

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