Cinema: The Moonchild and the Fifth Beatle

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Sleep well?


Yes. (a small grin)

What there was of it. I didn't wake you up, did I?


No, you didn't wake me up.

John and Mary pick each other up in a Manhattan dating bar. They never quite catch each other's name, but they go to bed (his place; she has roommates). They spend the next day finding out about each other, fall in love and that evening again head for bed. They speak their final dialogue as the camera follows a trail of clothes across the bedroom floor:


My name's Mary . . . What about you . . . ?


I'm John.

Peter Yates, the British director who began filming John & Mary in Manhattan last week, calls it a "contemporary love story." It begins where romantic movies used to end—with the snuggling in the percales. After that, the script lightly flicks such switched-on subjects as astrology, hippies, fags, the Pill, Jean-Luc Godard's Weekend, May-September adultery, cinéma vérité film makers and, just for laughs, itself. From time to time, for example, it underlines the dialogue with subtitles:

MARY You've got a lot of room here.


"Is your wife away for the weekend?"

Who are Mary and John? The ad announcing the new production says it in ideographs: Rosemary's baby carriage perched atop Mrs. Robinson's knee. Mia Farrow, 23, and Dustin Hoffman, 31. The wandering waif and the victim of the middle class. Mrs. Sinatra and Mr. Acne. Novelist Flannery O'Connor put it another way: "Everything that rises must converge." The casting together of the two fastest-rising performers in the business was inevitable—it always is. But it once took half a career to manage the box-office mergers of Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson or Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. The tempo of American cinema has speeded up; it happened to Farrow and Hoffman after one big hit apiece.

Those two hits themselves are significant: they are obviously part of their time and yet, in other ways, out of it. The era is supposed to belong to the politically active and the sexually liberated young; how could anyone hope to succeed with a picture about a male-virgin college graduate whose only politic problem was turning off Mrs. Robinson? This is an age dominated by science, which prides itself on being free of superstition; who would have thought that a story that takes the devil seriously could become a smash? Yet Rosemary's Baby was not only a bestseller as a book, but already ranks among the top 50 alltime movie hits. The Graduate has become the third largest money earner ($40 million) in movie history.

It is mainly the kids who made the success of these films, suggesting that the image of the new generation free of sexual hang-ups and fascinated only by reality is misleading. The young, in fact, have made a new cult of the occult. The cause, Psychologist Rollo May believes, lies in the disintegration of familiar myths that leaves individuals alienated and adrift. When the medieval myths broke down, he argues, people turned to "witchcraft, sorcery and, in painting, the wild surrealism of a man like Bosch. In our day it is LSD, hippies and touch therapy."

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