Director Paul Mazursky Dies at 84

Paul Mazursky

The Oscar nominated director of 'Unmarried Woman' died on Monday, June 30.
Paul Mazursky, known for his directorial credits for satirical comedies portraying the absurdity of modern life including "Unmarried Woman", "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice", and "Down and Out in Beverly Hills", died on Monday, June 30. He was 84.

The director, who had been nominated for Oscar five times in screenplay and best picture category, died of pulmonary cardiac arrest at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, according to a spokeperson.

Born Irwin Mazursky on April 25, 1930, the director started his carreer as an actor in Stanley Kubrick's film, "Fear and Desire". He continued acting for movies and TV shows throughout his life, including his appearance as Norm, a golfer with high blood pressure on HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm", and his portrayal of juvenile delinquent in "The Blackboard Jungle".

However, it is behind the screen as both director and screenwriter that Mazursky's name has been best remembered. His movies stood somewhere between funny and forlorn, and often ended with questions, not answers.

He first directed his feature film "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice" in 1969. The film discussed and satirized moral and social change at the time, narrating two couples, one conventional and one open-minded, involved in partner-swapping. The comedy ranked as the fifth-highest grossing film of 1969.

"The genius of Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice is that it understands the peculiar nature of the moral crisis for Americans in this age group and understands that the way to consider it is in a comedy," Roger Ebert wrote in his review. "What is comedy, after all, but tragedy seen from the outside?"

Mazursky's other influential works include "Unmarried Woman" and "Down and Out in Beverly Hills". "Unmarried Woman" was a drama comedy about a woman struggling for independence and identity after her husband left her for a younger woman. The film was nominated for three Oscars. "Down and Out in Beverly Hills" told a story about a rich but troubled family with issues such as sexuality, eating disorders, uninterested wife, cheating husband and a homeless stranger trying to drown himself in the family pool. Two Golden Globe nominations were received by the film.

When criticized about his subjects of humour, Mazursky responded that he had great compassion but he made movies for entertainment. "I see the humor in a lot of things, even homelessness," the director told PEOPLE magazine in 1986. "Part of me wants to be slip-on-the-banana-peel funny. The other part wants to be significant, so if I can just slip on the banana peel significantly, I'm OK. It could be my downfall, but I see the comedy, the absurdity in life. If a movie is really great, it can make you laugh and cry at the same time. After all, that's what life does."

Mazursky was recently honored by the Writers Guild of America West with Screen Laurel Award for his lifetime achievement in writing for motion pictures.

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