By The Sea Film Analysis

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After a big AFI Fest premiere, “By The Sea,” Angelina Jolie’s third directorial outing, opens in theaters tomorrow. The film marks something of a departure for the megastar-turned-helmer: as opposed to the prestige-y conflict dramas of “In The Land Of Blood And Honey” and last year’s “Unbroken,” the new film is a European-style melodrama set in the 1970s about a troubled American couple on vacation whose relationship is put to the test in a major way.

It’s a throwback to a particular kind of movie made by Italian directors of the 1950s and 1960s, but also filmed by others before and since, which examine a marriage or relationship in crisis, the hope that can come from surviving those tests and the sadness when you realize you won’t make it.
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The film is about two Beverly Hills bohemian couples who, in the aftermath of one man’s confession to infidelity, declare that they shall tell the truth, the ugly, honest truth, at all costs —in the parlance of Mazursky and co-writer Larry Tucker’s screenplay, they will say what they “feel,” as opposed to what they think. The idea, illustrated by a hilariously ill-advised trip to a self-help seminar in the film’s opening scenes, is that this unabashed honesty will create real progress in both of the film’s respective romantic courtships. These people are so committed to unvarnished truth telling and allegedly progressive thinking that they’ve forgotten how to be human with each other. They deliberately speak in patronizing platitudes, extolling the virtues of people whom they barely know —they’re so open that they’re about ready to fall apart. “Bob & Carol” remains Mazursky’s definitive movie because of its shocking, funny and deeply serious dissection of a collective cultural mentality. It’s about the big differences between what people do and what people say, in a way that is exclusive to the city Mazursky portrayed so fondly and so well. Unlike the nebbishy Upper East Side-dwellers of Woody Allen, who remain largely fixated largely on class envy, creative hierarchies and sexual hang-ups, Mazursky’s unwound Angelinos fancy themselves on the brink of a wave of tolerance and progress. They’re perfect, upstanding, morally sound citizens of the world, and they’re also perfect clowns. When the four come to the conclusion that the only logical “next step” in their self-imposed spiritual cleansing is to all sleep together, Elliot Gould’s character casually remarks, “first, we’ll have an orgy. Then we’ll go see Tony
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