Sparkling San Franciscan socialite Petulia (Julie Christie) wants an affair. She’s been married six months and hasn’t had one yet. Lucky surgeon and soon-to-be-single Archie (George C Scott) catches her eye and their tentative romance begins. Beneath Petulia’s charming kookiness it becomes clear that her new husband (Richard Chamberlain) is physically abusive.
Pauline Kael though did not like it at all, as covered in her essay "Trash, Art and the Movies" (in her GOING STEADY collection), where she has "rarely seen a more disagreeable, a more dislikeable (or bloodier) movie" and its commercial success "represents a triumph of publicity". "PETULIA is the come-dressed-as-the-sick-soul-of-America-party" and the film is his (Lester's) "hate letter to America" (much the same I imagine as Antonioni's ZABRISKIE POINT was a year or two later). "Probably the director who made 3 celebrations of youth and freedom (A HARD DAY'S NIGHT, HELP!, THE KNACK) is now desperate to expand his range and become a "serious" director..." She does agree though that "Julie Christie is extraordinary to look at" .... For me though it is a great '60s American film like the recently-reviewed here THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR, THE GROUP, THE STERILE CUCKOO, PRETTY POISON or LAST SUMMER and Coppola's delightful YOU'RE A BIG BOY NOW.
Soon: '60s thrillers like Lumet's downbeat THE DEADLY AFFAIR, Ken Russell's flashy BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN ...and some early '60s dramas: THE MARK, THE THIRD SECRET, THE INSPECTOR (LISA).