WILLIE & PHIL -- AMC Carrollton 6, Aspen Hill, Jenifer, Roth's Steven Locks, Roth's Tysons Corner and Springfiled Mall Cinema.

Whatever it thinks it's about, Paul Mazursky's "Willie and Phil" is really about how pathetically people flounder when they aren't forced into specific cultural patterns.

The title characters, respectively but interchangeably played by Michael Ontkean and Ray Sharkey, obviously think it's about freedom of choice. They meet at a showing of "Jules et Jim," the Truffaut film about a menage a trois and then, with the world before them, go on to sample drugs, vegetarianism, Yoga, farming, filming, mysticism, househusbandhood, music, tennis, hot tubs, Malibu before setting up their own menage a trois.

What does Mazursky think it's about? He hedges by providing a heavily questions were" -- which suggests satiric superiority. Surely he thinks it's funny that freedom is defined as whatever Time Magazine shows to be the lifestyle trend of the month.

But wait. What would these people be doing if their impoverished imaginations were not employed by improvising paterns of living? If Willie and Phil represent a generation of alternatives, what about other generations? a

Willie's parents, who are Jewish, do nothing but push food, marriage and guilt. Phil's parents, who are Italian, do nothing but push food, marriage and guilt. Number trois, a Greenwich Village pick-up dream girl played by Margot Kidder, is southern. Her father is dead, and so nothing but food is pushed at her house.

The point being made is that conventional life is so dreadful that any diversion is an improvement.

A child born of one of these couplings and named Zelda (what else?) is shown -- and announced -- to be thriving on her family life.

Fathers come and go as the spirit moves them or the mother, but all pet her while they're there. The point being made is that unrestricted love is natural and healthy.

This is stacked satire. There are never any adverse consequences to the actions of characters Marzursky likes in his films, but people who are not participating in whatever experiment he is examining, but go about business as usual, are responsible for loosing a plague of guilt upon the world.

The menage a trois solution is portrayed as bold and noble, and not the less glorious because the people can't sustain it. Nowhere is it hinted that trying to live out "Jules et Jim" is abut as meaningful as a Parisians deciding, after seeing an American western, to dress like a cowboy.