When this film came out it was a big deal, a prestige
product. The leading actor, George Segal, was a major star at the time, and
the 1973-4 period was probably the pinnacle of his career. This film came out
at about the same time as A Touch of Class and Altman's California Split, and
it was by no means considered the ugly stepchild of the other two. A
young unknown whippersnapper of a movie reviewer named Roger Ebert gave Blume
in Love his
highest possible rating - four stars. The script was nominated for the Writers Guild
award as the best original comedy screenplay of 1973, and it lost to
another George Segal film (A Touch of Class).
I suppose what I'm saying here is that this was an A-list
project. You probably wouldn't guess that if you watched it today without
knowing what I have just revealed. You'd probably think it was sort of OK, but
kind of quaint, and too
slow to develop its themes.
To be honest, it would not be hard to nod off during this film.
Beware: TOTAL SPOILERS
Although I no longer find it to be a very good film
(I say "no longer" assuming I probably did back in 1973), and I have no idea why it was ever
considered a comedy, I still find it interesting to
analyze. It's a film caught in a time warp. On the surface it is a classic
1950s-style love story. A divorced husband (Segal) sits alone in Venice, thinking back
to his honeymoon in that same romantic city, recalling what went wrong in his
marriage and the period just after it. He narrates from the present time, and
his narrations predictably merge into flashbacks. He was unfaithful to his wife. She
caught him and would not forgive him. But, dammit, he loved her and he
realized how badly he screwed up. He pined for her, and did a of of begging,
but she took up with another guy, and he found consolation with an
ex-girlfriend. Still he loved his ex-wife, and thought of her constantly.
They did get together briefly, and she got pregnant, but they did not reunite.
Then the other guy split, but she still didn't want her ex- back. At the very
end, as he mopes around Venice watching all the happy young lovers and wishing
he were still in love, she shows up totally unexpectedly, they embrace, and
they experience a happy reunion, having both learned from the experience.
Pretty straightforward Cary Grant stuff, eh?
But wait! As Paul Harvey would say, here's the rest of the
story. Even though the filmmaking is pure 1955, the characters are filled with
in-your-face hippie-era attitude. The "other man" is an itinerant musician who
lives in his truck and smokes reefer all day (Kris Kristofferson, pretty much
playing Kris Kristofferson.) He collects welfare, but has no intention of
working. He's just sticking it to the man.
And mainly smoking reefer.
It turns out that the wife chose not to forgive her husband for the
infidelity because she was starting to realize that she needed room to evolve
and grow. After the split, she started to take yoga and guitar lessons, had a
lot of sex and and smoked a lot of reefer. Meanwhile, the husband and the
"other man" bonded, became close, and ... er ... smoked a lot of reefer. And the
sympathetic ex-girlfriend who helped Segal through his pain knew there was
nothing permanent in it for her, but she liked the sex and companionship, and
didn't need the relationship to turn into anything permanent. And another chick Segal picked up
in a bar immediately wanted to get him into a foursome. Oh, and remember how I
said the husband and wife briefly got together and she got pregnant? Well, the
specifics of that encounter are that he raped her and the boyfriend showed up
during the act. And why did the boyfriend leave? Well, he just figured it was
time to move on, because ... well, that's what itinerant musicians do. Besides, once she
got pregnant, he figured she wouldn't let him smoke as much ganja.
Rape and reefer. Definitely not Cary Grant stuff.
There is nothing in those characters or storylines that
seems so daring today, but those characters were all new screen
archetypes for that era, except for the philandering husband, who was just an
old-fashioned guy trying to figure why everyone else was changing. This film is a
perfect illustration of how the counter-cultural characters and attitudes from the
late sixties had, by 1973, slipped completely into the mainstream of the
culture itself, and thence into studio films with middlebrow stars like George Segal
and Marsha Mason.