John and Mary (1969)

John and Mary is one of those period piece films that is all but forgotten today. I happened to find it on Netflix, and don’t recall ever having seen it before. That’s always fun -at least for me- finding an obscure film that has well known actors that was made decades ago. In this case, the well known actors are Dustin Hoffman and Mia Farrow, who play an ultra modern (for their time) pair of single people who meet in a New York City bar, spend the night together and contemplate where, if anywhere, it’s all going to go.

John and Mary is by no means a great film. Looking over reviews from when it came out, it wasn’t especially well received, and for justifiable reasons. The film, directed by Peter Yates, is from a novel, and every so often we hear the characters’ thoughts and it sounds like words taken from a novel. Much of the rest of the time it feels more like a play, as much of it is set in John’s apartment and there’s a lot of back-and-forth and somewhat repetitive interaction as the two new lovers are alternately affectionate and combative with each other. There are also attempts at humor, but the mix of drama and comedy is a little uneven. Even though it only runs about 90 minutes it feels long.

If you like low key, character driven, and especially dialogue driven films, as I do, John and Mary will appeal to you. Unfortunately, it’s not the greatest example of this type of film. Yet, any student of independent films, anyone who lived through the 60’s or has an interest in that period may want to see it, if only for its historical interest.

The trailer that accompanied the Netflix version of the film was amusing -the slogan “Not your mother’s love story” must have been repeated a half dozen times, showing how eager they were to shock the public with this tale of contemporary urban amorality. Ultimately, however, the film’s desire to be ultra hip and blase are its undoing, as the characters don’t really have much depth, almost as though the filmmakers knew even then that this was more a commentary on a generation than about real people.

This video has some scenes from the film:

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