Of all the Altman films, are Nashville, The Player, Short Cuts and Pret a Porter the only ones that share the similar if not the same format? You know the mosaic, the tapestry of different lives intersecting or interwining...
I saw The Player years, years ago but I couldn't remember a thing. How do this film and Pret a Porter compare to Nashville and Short Cuts?
First there are
more "tapestry" films -- A Wedding
is the most obvious. For me, Buffalo Bill and the Indians
also fits in there. In fact, Altman has occasionally referred to Nashville
, Buffalo Bill and the Indians
and A Wedding
as, variously, an Americana trilogy or a show-business trilogy.
Then there's the sublime, little-seen Health
. Although not filmed on the grand scale of Nashville
or Buffalo Bill
, it certainly qualifies as a multi-character tapestry. But where the earlier films had distinct (and generally cynical) messages, Health
is pure comedy -- a kind of slapstick Nashville
. Unfortunately, it was also a political satire at a time when such films were highly unfashionable, and studio executives at 20th Century Fox utterly killed distribution.
Altman's recent Gosford Park
also fits the mold, having no central character and a profusion of satellite chacters orbiting around a protagonistic void.
As for The Player
, to me it's another tapestry -- and a highly successful one -- only in this case there is
a protagonist, Griffin Mill. It seems
different because most of Altman's similar films lacked a central character. But the tapestry is there; it's simply woven around a center point.
But be warned -- I'm one who thinks Pret a Porter
is highly underrated. Yes, it's often sloppy filmmaking, and the recurring dogshit joke isn't remotely funny, but I find it enormous fun. A lot of people don't recognize that, in addition to being a savage skewering of the fashion industry, it's also Altman bending genres again. In this case, he's working his way through "the European film". It's almost as if Altman decided to out-Godard Godard. In all fairness, I should make clear that I'm in a distinct minority on this one; most people think it's pretty abysmal. And I have to admit it can't begin to compare with the masterpiece that is Short Cuts
, perhaps Altman's greatest film.
and A Wedding
, sadly, are not currently available on dvd. Catch 'em on cable if you get the chance.