An Unmarried Woman (Paul Mazursky, 1978)

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Mr Sausage
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An Unmarried Woman (Paul Mazursky, 1978)

#1 Post by Mr Sausage » Tue Sep 15, 2020 10:22 pm

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Drucker
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Re: An Unmarried Woman (Paul Mazursky, 1978)

#2 Post by Drucker » Wed Sep 16, 2020 12:39 am

This film was really excellent. As someone who just went through a divorce, myself, I can also say it felt very true, honest, and quite frankly mirrored many of my own feelings and experiences.

The film really gets going, for me, when she goes to her first therapy appointment. Erica's regaling a story of her childhood of feeling inadequate, and its punctuated with a lovely, "I'm not sure why I'm telling you this." The first part of the film and therapy in particular, really seems centered around that feeling of being removed from the structure of your life. Early on, Erica is the woman with a good marriage. The first scene with her friends at dinner establishes her 'place' within her friend group. But upon being left, she's angry, aloof, and just unsure of what to do. The film does a really good job of conveying that feeling of just going through the motions but feeling totally lost. Even therapy, quite frankly, is a part of it early on. Once Erica hears that the work she does outside of therapy is more important than the work inside, we take the next step for the film.

She gets to a point where what she thought of as her default really isn't such anymore, but it requires experimentation to re-set your grounding. "Aren't I just supposed to go have sex with random people" isn't an uncommon feeling and so the film's choice to really accent just how logical and un-emotional that feeling is was really quite honest. As she begins to fall for Saul, she kind of talks it out and negotiates it. When you're young and you fall in love, you are more inclined to go with the flow because it just seems like a logical projection. After a divorce, you feel like: 1) How am I supposed to feel? 2) Am I enjoying this? 3) Setting realistic expectations and over-communicating to your new lover your feelings. The film portrays these events really lovingly, and again, it does so in a way that's quite true to life as far as I'm concerned.

By the end, Erica has landed somewhere new. Critically, at the start of a divorce, you feel like: "I need to get back to where I was, just with someone new." Initially you can feel so thrown off by displacement, you just want to re-gain your footing. At the end of the film, she realizes she hasn't quite landed, but she's navigating quite well. Even in her friend group, her friend is looking at her and talking with her in a new way. There's really no going back to the mental state you had when you were married. The awareness you gain in romantic situations also appears with other friendships and you feel and act differently. Your social standing has completely changed. And while she loves Saul, she realizes that getting back to where she had begun isn't really the goal here. And she wants him in her life, but that may not be the priority at the moment, and Saul can take or leave it. But she's on a new journey now and she needs to see it through to the end.

Edit: Re-reading my post from late last night I realize how much of my own experience I'm projecting onto it, but I still stand by my reading!
Last edited by Drucker on Wed Sep 16, 2020 10:23 am, edited 1 time in total.

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therewillbeblus
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Re: An Unmarried Woman (Paul Mazursky, 1978)

#3 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Sep 16, 2020 12:57 am

Great post, Drucker- on the surface this is an exceptional version of a woman confined by patriarchal holds and expectations (Murphy's 'I'm ready to get back together!' is a pitch right down the center for this feminist swing) but I appreciated your reading into her self-actualization by the end, and what that really means for her below the iceberg. Between this and Starting Over, Jill Clayburgh's aura is incredibly authentic and I wish she had more of a presence in cinema. I also love the relationship with her therapist, which I remember being very funny with strange boundaries- to the point where I thought she was just a friend for their first few scenes together!

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knives
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Re: An Unmarried Woman (Paul Mazursky, 1978)

#4 Post by knives » Wed Sep 16, 2020 10:15 am

I really adore this film and am curious if anyone else finds the film connected on a deeper level to Godard's similarly titled film? Wouldn't be the first or last time that Mazursky, an underrated talent, tied himself into a knot with a new wave film.

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domino harvey
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Re: An Unmarried Woman (Paul Mazursky, 1978)

#5 Post by domino harvey » Wed Sep 16, 2020 10:18 am

I don’t, but for some reason the thing I always remember about this movie is that Clayburgh’s daughter has a conversation where she name-checks Lina Wertmuller

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Drucker
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Re: An Unmarried Woman (Paul Mazursky, 1978)

#6 Post by Drucker » Wed Sep 16, 2020 10:21 am

domino harvey wrote:
Wed Sep 16, 2020 10:18 am
I don’t, but for some reason the thing I always remember about this movie is that Clayburgh’s daughter has a conversation where she name-checks Lina Wertmuller
Yes she had gone on a date with her boyfriend. Can't remember her exact line but she says, "I thought it was X. He thought it was Y." It's a funny moment!

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knives
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Re: An Unmarried Woman (Paul Mazursky, 1978)

#7 Post by knives » Wed Sep 16, 2020 10:26 am

Man, I want to be unpacked to rewatch this. When I went through all of his films a few years back it stood in the middle of the pack, but a few visuals like her walking across a bridge are seared in my mind. To add to my comment I think the film's starting gem is to play the opposite of Godard by having the title be about a woman who becomes disconnected on several levels. Not just the obvious divorce process, but also the trials of relationships and personhood leaving her de-married from these anchors of self definition.

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