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Set in the swinging sixties, Petulia is a drama film that tells the story of a young, free-spirited socialite named Petulia Danner (Julie Christie) and her tumultuous affair with an emotionally distant surgeon, Dr. Archie Bollen (George C. Scott). Directed by Richard Lester and released in 1968, the film captures the mood and ethos of the counterculture movement of the time.

Petulia is a complex character, a rebel who refuses to conform to the traditional gender roles that have been imposed upon her. She is married but seeks excitement and continual thrills in her life. Her husband is a wealthy businessman, a man with whom she is no longer in love. The film begins with Petulia attending a party thrown by her husband, where she meets Dr. Bollen, with whom she becomes quickly infatuated.

Dr. Bollen, on the other hand, is in the midst of a difficult divorce and has lost touch with his emotions. He is a man who has been consumed by his career and his desire to succeed, hence estranging himself from his wife and daughter. When Petulia and Dr. Bollen become involved, they seem to bring out the best and the worst in each other. She forces him to confront his emotions and be more vulnerable; he encourages her to see the darker side of life and accept life as it is.

The film takes place against the backdrop of San Francisco, portrayed as a vibrant, progressive, and sometimes dangerous city. The filmmakers use the city to contrast Petulia's glamorous, vibrant world with the darker intensity of Dr. Bollen's surgical profession. The city is captured through the use of jarring editing and rapid jump cuts, which give the film a frenetic, dizzying pace.

Throughout the film, the audience is taken on a journey through flashbacks and current events, exploring the relationship between the two central characters, as well as their individual struggles. We get glimpses into Petulia's past and her relationship with her father, which helped to mold her character. Similarly, we learn about Dr. Bollen's past and his relationship with his daughter, which provides insight into his distant and unapproachable demeanor.

As the film progresses, the viewer becomes increasingly invested in the relationship between Petulia and Dr. Bollen, which is both passionate and volatile. They seem to be two people searching for something that the other can provide, but they also have secrets that threaten to tear them apart. Petulia is a tortured soul, desperately wanting love and affection from the people around her, yet, at the same time, unable to fully commit. Dr. Bollen, similarly, is carrying a heavy emotional burden that causes him to be distant and dismissive; he cannot give Petulia the love she needs.

Petulia's story is emotionally charged, with strong performances from Christie and Scott, both at the peak of their careers. The film showcases the counterculture movement of the sixties, with San Francisco serving as a backdrop for the changing social and political climate of the time. The film's cinematography is excellent, featuring a kaleidoscope of colors and photogenic locations, including the famous Bay Area, where the opening shots of the Golden Gate Bridge and downtown skyline are iconic.

Overall, Petulia is a haunting and gritty tale of love, longing, and self-discovery. It is a film that provides a glimpse into the lives of two troubled individuals, their relationship fraught with tension and uncertainty. It is a film that forces the viewer to think about the pitfalls of societal norms and about the search for connection and self-discovery. Indeed, Petulia remains a timeless classic that remains just as relevant today as it was over five decades ago.

Petulia is a Drama, Romance movie released in 1968. It has a runtime of 105 min.. Critics and viewers have rated it moderate reviews, with an IMDb score of 6.9..

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Richard Lester
Julie Christie, George C. Scott, Richard Chamberlain
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