Elliott Gould, bipolar Brooklyn boy made good as an improbable movie star embodying the knowingly iconoclastic post-60s New American Cinema, is the subject of a tribute at BAM starting today and continuing through the 21st, and this is, as my grandmother used to say, good for the Jews. And socially wary (read: awkward) cinephiles everywhere. And certain people who shall remain nameless but find Gould’s mumbly, sarcastic, alternately ebullient and depressed, stubbly persona to be… weirdly sexy.
But let’s move on, and talk instead about his gloriously in-jokey improved screwball banter in Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H* (a weeklong run of which kicks off the series), The Long Goodbye and California Split; the recessive mistrust in Alan Arkin’s Little Murders (and, one assumes, the extremely rare Bergman film The Touch[!], the now-or-never revelation of the series); the shepherding of underdog charm into crossroads-standing mainstream commercial fare. Gould’s always talking to himself, narrating really, in a mostly bemused voice — like he’s conscious of the role he’s playing, not sure if he wants to be is, but plans on getting a laugh out of it because he’s damned if he’s going to let anyone else dictate his experience. Like the series title (taken from the pictured magazine profile) says, he’s a star for an uptight age: a guy mostly comfortable with his uncertainty, prone to momentary confrontations with the void and most of all to giddy, free-associative sprees, too hip to script. He’s the perfect performer for an era at once drunk on and hung over from possibility — I mean his early 70s heyday, and maybe now, too. He’ll be in person at BAM next Friday and Saturday for Q&As after screenings of Little Murders and The Long Goodbye.