Thursday, November 23, 2006
ROBERT ALTMAN & WHAT HE LEFT US
ROBERT ALTMAN’s death this week comes right at the time that I was preparing to post a big thing on his “THREE WOMEN”, one of my all-time favorite films. In fact two of my Top 10 films ever are from Altman, with the other being “NASHVILLE” – and I’d make a case for “McCABE AND MRS. MILLER” being near the top as well. His 1970s work is absolutely peerless, and I say this as someone who still has yet to see some of his more acclaimed 70s films, like “M.A.S.H.”, “CALIFORNIA SPLIT” and “IMAGES”. The ones I have seen, though – including the creepy and hilarious “A WEDDING” – are as rich & complex and ground-breaking as film can be while still being a total blast of bizarro entertainment. What Altman was able to bring out of his casts – especially Shelly Duvall & Sissy Spacek in “Three Women”, or Warren Beatty in “McCabe” – were quirky & masterful performances that are so great they continue to be studied and written about to this day. He also was the first director that I know of to make a multi-dimensional, interlocking-story film with an ensemble cast like “Nashville”, a formula he repeated quite well in the early 90s with “THE PLAYER”. This formula is now copied many times over on TV shows like "The Wire" and "Six Feet Under", and by directors far & wide. I missed most of his films from the past 15 years because they were reviewed so poorly, but the aforementioned “The Player” and “GOSFORD PARK” had flashes of the early, 70s-style brilliance, and are definitely worth seeing on their own. I don’t typically write obituaries because they usually maudlin & full of fake “we will miss him so much”/”we have suffered such a loss” sentimentality, but Altman was truly one of the greats. I’ll write that thing on “THREE WOMEN” later, after I’ve watched the recent Criterion Collection DVD again.
Posted by Jay H. at 9:03 AM