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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 2.35:1 Widescreen
  • 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English DTS-HD 5.1 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 3 Discs
FEATURES
  • Audio commentary featuring director Robert Altman
  • New documentary on the making of the film, featuring interviews with actors Ronee Blakley, Keith Carradine, Michael Murphy, Allan Nicholls, and Lily Tomlin; screenwriter Joan Tewkesbury; assistant director Alan Rudolph; and Altman's widow, Kathryn Reed Altman
  • Three archival interviews with Altman
  • Behind-the-scenes footage
  • Demo of Carradine performing his songs from the film
  • Trailer

Nashville

Dual-Format Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Robert Altman
Starring: David Arkin, Barbara Baxley, Ned Beatty, Karen Black, Ronee Blakley, Timothy Brown, Keith Carradine, Geraldine Chaplin, Robert DoQui, Shelley Duvall, Allen Garfield, Henry Guisol, Henry Gibson, Scott Glenn, Jeff Goldblum, Barbara Harris, David Hayward, Michael Murphy, Allan Nicholls, Dave Peel, Cristina Raines, Bert Remsen, Lily Tomlin, Gwen Welles, Keenan Wynn, Thomas Hal Phillips, Elliott Gould, Julie Christie
1975 | 160 Minutes | Licensor: Paramount Home Entertainment

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #683
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: December 3, 2013
Review Date: November 30, 2013

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SYNOPSIS

This cornerstone of 1970s American moviemaking from Robert Altman is a panoramic view of the country's political and cultural landscapes, set in the nation's music capital. Nashville weaves the stories of twenty-four characters-from country star to wannabe to reporter to waitress-into a cinematic tapestry that is equal parts comedy, tragedy, and musical. Many members of the astonishing cast wrote their own songs and performed them live on location, which lends another layer to the film's quirky authenticity. Altman's ability to get to the heart of American life via its eccentric byways was never put to better use than in this grand, rollicking triumph, which barrels forward to an unforgettable conclusion.

Forum members rate this film 8/10

 

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Criterion saves Robert Altmanís Nashville, presenting it in a new dual-format edition in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The Blu-ray presents the film in a new 1080p/24hz high-definition transfer on a dual-layer disc and the DVD version delivers the standard-definition version of the film in an anamorphic transfer on the first of two dual-layer discs.

The Blu-ray is far more filmic in its presentation compared to Paramountís previous DVD, which left a lot to be desired. It retains the filmís fairly grainy look and manages to keep the grain structure looking natural and organic. Edges are clearly defined and details in some of the locations and outfits, particularly the ridiculous ones in Henry Gibsonís outfit, do pop out. Colours look absolutely brilliant, particularly reds and greens, and black levels are rich and deep.

The DVDís transfer is also rather impressive. Itís been filtered a bit more, I suspect to keep grain under control, and in turn doesnít have as filmic a look, but it still looks surprisingly sharp and delivers a great amount of detail itself. Darker scenes, like the opening in the studio, do look a bit noisier, but compression as a whole doesnít seem to have hurt the image here all that much. Edges also look clean and edge-enhancement wasnít a concern. The Blu-ray is still obviously better, coming off sharper in comparison, but the DVDís transfer still looks very good upscaled.

The print is also in much better shape compared to the older transfer. I noticed a few bits of grit in some exterior shots but I donít recall any other problems.

Gone are all of the shimmering effects, jagged edges, compression problems, scratches, and debris found on Paramountís previous DVD. Criterionís new presentation delivers a number of substantial improvements.

9/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Criterion delivers the film with a 5.1 surround upgrade (as I understand it the film was released in 4-channel surround) in Dolby Digital on the DVD and DTS-HD MA on the Blu-ray. Both are surprisingly full experiences and amazingly effective. Dialogue is limited to the fronts and itís all about as clear as can be since all characters in a scene talk over one another, a common Altman trait after California Split. Where the track gets really good is during concert sequences or large gatherings of characters, like a couple of bar sequences or the opening at the airport. During the music sequences the instruments and voices fill out all channels and deliver a rich presentation that is effective in giving the illusion of actually being there. Sequences like the airport one have all of the sound effectsóin that case planes landing, PA speakers chattering away, a marching band there to greet a popular singerófill out the environment as well, and itís all just as immersive as the concert sequences. Bass is also very pronounced but never overwhelming. Some of these sound effects can drown out dialogue and other things but this is all intentional.

Though both the Dolby Digital and DTS-HD tracks are good the DTS-HD track is the clear winner here. The Dolby Digital track is effective but the DTS-HD track is noticeably sharper and cleaner, with far better range and volume levels. But having said that no one should be disappointed with either presentation.

8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion throws on a number of supplements, even carrying over those that were on the Paramount DVD, including the same audio commentary recorded by director Robert Altman. Altmanís commentaries are disappointingly hit-and-miss with me and this one is unfortunately a miss. Plagued by dead spots lasting many minutes at a time, Altman talks about the film on a surprisingly superficial level, mostly offering a brief summation of the productionís history, developing the story, and talking about the actors (limited mostly to him just complementing them,) where he seems more interested in talking about them in some of his other films (in the case of Shelley Duvall he seems more interested in talking about her casting in Popeye rather than her role in this film.) I think my frustration with the track is probably best shown when he talks about Gwen Welles, who I feel had the most difficult role in the film. Though he addresses that the role was difficult and he felt bad for putting her through a key scene in the film, what he says could be basically summed up with ďshe was a good sport.Ē Though Altman enjoys reminiscing I feel other supplements on this release cover the film a bit better.

Specifically the next feature, a 71-minute making-of, which gathers together many members of the cast and crew, including actors Keith Carradine, Ronee Blakley, Michael Murphy, Lily Tomlin, and Allan Nicholls, screenwriter Joan Tewkesbury, assistant director Alan Rudolph, and Altmanís widow Kathryn Reed Altman. Rudolph, Tewkesbury, and even Reed Altman all talk about the early stages of development, beginning with Tewkesburyís trip to Nashville and the writing of the first draft, subsequent drafts (which Altman claimed would be ďthrown awayĒ once the shooting actually began,) and then the editing process, which was unsurprisingly a daunting task. Thereís also a great section on the filmís complicated sound design.

The actors all talk about Altmanís style of directing, and how they each were able to bring in their own elements to their respective roles. Though I knew the film was heavy in improvisation I was still surprised how a lot of the most memorable sequences were actually made up on the spot. Also surprising for me was Carradine admitting he was uncomfortable doing improv. Everyone shares anecdotes from the set, talks about their fellow cast members (everyone was jealous of Karen Black since she actually got to stay in a nice hotel while the rest were all grouped together in some horrible singles complex,) and what it was like to work with Altman. Thereís also a nice little section of the documentary devoted to Henry Gibson and his great work in the film. Lengthy and in-depth, itís an incredibly thorough and satisfying making-of for the film.

Criterion next includes three archival interviews with Robert Altman. The first is from 1975 and filmed for a show called Cinema Showcase, which has one of the worst sets Iíve seen for a program of this type. Running 26-minutes (with an annoying black bar across the center of the screen for some reason) it focuses on Nashville, which was just released at the time. Altman goes over the initial development of the film, which differs a bit from what he says in the commentary in a few places, like why Robert Duvall couldnít do the film. He also gets into more detail about the editing process and how much was cut from the film, even promising an extended version for television (Iím not sure if this actually exists) and then talks about how he works with actors. The conversation overall is actually very interesting, with the two talking about his style in relation to how other filmmakers work. He also talks about current (at the time) directors he admires, like Scorsese and Bergman, and then shocks the host when he admits he never cared for John Ford. Though the interview didnít seem to promise much at first itís actually an incredibly engaging piece, far richer than the commentary the director would eventually record here.

The other archival interviews arenít as insightful unfortunately. One from 2000 is obviously just the fluff piece recorded for the Paramount DVD. Iím admittedly assuming this as I never watched the one on the Paramount DVD, but it feels like a quicky shot for DVD and basically just summarizes his commentary in less than 13-minutes. The final interview is an 8-minute excerpt from one David Thompson did with him in 2002. The excerpt focuses on Nashville and Altman repeats how the production came to be but gets into more detail about his original deal with United Artists and how they rejected his script. Past this there isnít much new.

We next get 12-minutes worth of behind-the-scenes footage, most of it from the traffic jam and the last little bit from the closing at the Parthenon replica. The footage is silent but showcases the organized chaos of the shoot.

A demo reel of Keith Carradine singing ďIt Donít Worry Me,Ē ďIím Easy,Ē and ďBig City DreaminíĒ is next. It plays over behind-the-scenes photos. Itís a rather cool addition and has some amusing moments. Carradine is a little self-conscious and gets a little flustered when he has trouble remembering how ďIím EasyĒ goes, even asking Altman not to record this. Altman says he isnít, which is, of course, a lie. It runs 12-minutes.

The disc then closes with the filmís original theatrical trailer and the included booklet features an essay by critic Molly Haskell covering the film, its technical achievements, and overall impact.

All of the features appear on the lone Blu-ray disc. In the case of the DVD version, the film, the commentary, and trailer appear on the first disc, while the remaining features appear on the second dual-layer DVD.

Itís a nicely put together package, though admittedly a few of the features (the commentary and a couple of the archival interviews) donít offer too much. Iím also surprised at the lack of deleted material, especially George Segalís cameo that was mentioned in the features. Still, I think fans of the film and Altman will be more than pleased with the upgrade over Paramountís previous release.

8/10

CLOSING

Criterionís new edition of Nashville delivers an impressive upgrade over Paramountís previous DVD, improving on it all areas. It comes with a very high recommendation.


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