Director Paul Mazursky, who died last month, understood that looks and image set the mood of a movie. But his pictures also showed the disturbing parts that live under the surface.
The critic Irving Howe was not thinking of the writer-director Paul Mazursky, who has died at the age of 84, when he wrote of Jewish humor: “Laughter and trembling are so curiously intermingled that it is not easy to determine the relation between the two.” Yet he might as well have been. Born Irwin Mazursky in Brooklyn of Ukrainian Jewish ancestry, the filmmaker addressed often-somber problems such as marital strife, old age, and oppressive parents, yet his films were also gems of humor. “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice”; “Blume in Love”; “Harry and Tonto”; “Next Stop, Greenwich Village”; “An Unmarried Woman”; “Moscow on the Hudson”; “Down and Out in Beverly Hills”; and “Enemies, a Love Story” were empathetic and warm-heartedly accessible, seemingly about real people, not just characters put onscreen. Of “Blume in Love” starring George Segal, Mazursky told Filmmaker Magazine in 2013:
At 81, Brooklyn-born screenwriter and director Paul Mazursky may be most familiar to some HBO-TV viewers as Sunshine, the ill-fated poker dealer in “The Sopranos” and Norm, strictly unamused by Larry David’s antics in “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” A new book, “Paul on Mazursky,” out from Wesleyan University Press this fall, reminds us that Mazursky’s varied talents add up to a memorable legacy of filmmaking.