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 Post subject: 265 Short Cuts
PostPosted: Thu Nov 18, 2004 10:27 am 
Short Cuts

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The visions of two great American artists merge in Short Cuts, maverick director Robert Altman’s kaleidoscopic adaptation of Raymond Carver short stories. Epic in scale yet meticulously observed, the film interweaves the lives of twenty-two characters struggling to find solace and meaning in contemporary Los Angeles. The extraordinary ensemble cast includes Tim Robbins, Julianne Moore, Robert Downey, Jr., Jack Lemmon, and Jennifer Jason Leigh; all giving fearless performances in one of Altman’s most compassionate creations.

DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION DOUBLE-DISC SET:

- Restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised by editor Geraldine Peroni and approved by director Robert Altman
- Isolated music track
- English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired
- Video conversation between Robert Altman and Tim Robbins
- Luck, Trust and Ketchup: Robert Altman in Carver Country, a feature-length documentary on the making of Short Cuts
- To Write and Keep Kind, a PBS documentary on the life of Raymond Carver
- A segment from BBC Television’s Moving Pictures tracing the development of the screenplay
- One-hour 1983 audio interview with Carver, conducted for the American Audio Prose Library
- Original demo recordings of the Doc Pomus–Mac Rebennack songs, performed by Dr. John
- Deleted scenes
- A look inside the marketing of Short Cuts
- PLUS: An essay by film critic Michael Wilmington

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 20, 2004 6:42 pm 

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Any more Altman/PT Anderson comparisons or discussions can go here.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 22, 2004 12:42 pm 
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Spoiler!


Immediately before the earthquake, Jerry salvagely hit a girl at the park. So out of blue, so unexpected. I thought - why did he do that!? Was it necessary?! After the film ended, it finally dawned on me that if Altman decided to explain/spell out Jerry's action, it would be an insult to his character because he probably couldn't even understand why he moved to strike and kill the girl just like that. Am I right on the money?

Or maybe it's Altman's style to leave everything up to us to make the conclusion?

Edit: I can understand Jerry's simmering anger with his wife's phone sex operator job. But to kill an innocent stranger? The worst case of displacement anger I must say.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 22, 2004 1:27 pm 
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The short story Tell the Women We're Going details the attack in the book.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 22, 2004 2:19 pm 
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Immediately before the earthquake, Jerry salvagely hit a girl at the park. So out of blue, so unexpected. I thought - why did he do that!? Was it necessary?! After the film ended, it finally dawned on me that if Altman decided to explain/spell out Jerry's action, it would be an insult to his character because he probably couldn't even understand why he moved to strike and kill the girl just like that. Am I right on the money?


It is a shocking and sudden moment, but it isn’t entirely unexpected. Granted, the reasoning isn’t explicitly stated; but Jerry's anger had been progressively and visibly growing throughout the entire movie, and long before the narrative began. It's not just his feelings towards his wife and that pent up jealousy, either, however large a factor that played. It also seemed to stem from a perceived lack of man-hood on his part, and an anger over possessing inhibition. For example, the scene where his wife is propositioned at the bar. His anger at the other man is obvious; he feels threatened and would like to act, to protect whatever he felt had been threatened. Instead, he sat there kind of paralyzed, unable to act.
And watch him next to the Downy Jr. character at the end of the movie, who throws game at these girls with a casual ease. Jerry just stands there, unsure of his actions while he watches Downey Jr. flirt and act typically outgoing in a manner Jerry can not emulate and perhaps feels he should be able to.

His beating of the girl was just a final outpouring of aggression, and against a rather innocent target. I doubt it mattered really who it was; the building rage--towards his wife, his jealousy over what those other men can get and he cannot (oddly), and feelings maybe of inability, inferiority, or of subordination--just needed an outlet.

It's far more complex than any of that of course; but, while I was taken aback, I was never confused by Jerry's outburst. I was actually waiting for it to happen. I was actually kind of irritated by it, too, when it seemed as though he would get away with it.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 22, 2004 3:21 pm 
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Well I was unexpected because I was busy being caught up with so many folks that the time failed to permit me to place them separately until the film was over. My partner hated Short Cuts, asking why anyone would want to spend three hours watching a large array of characters fucking up. I love Short Cuts for a bunch of reasons: the main one being the way Altman edits and pieces everything together - so amazingly seamless that any jumping around is hardly noticeable. The film moves so smoothly.. actually it feels like floating like the characters floating about in their misery.. with no roots to adhere to. I think the film captures the rootlessness of the LA society most brilliantly. Plus the cast is a killer!


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 22, 2004 11:38 pm 
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why anyone would want to spend three hours watching a large array of characters fucking up.


I often get this from friends or other people: "why would I want to watch a movie that isn't happy?", "who wants to watch a movie where there are no redeeming characters?"

Finally I just got sick of the whining and said: it's not why you'd want to watch them, it's why you should watch them. And I think people should watch Short Cuts.

Frankly life isn't all that happy or redeeming most of the time. I admire artists (or craftsman, or whoever) who aspire towards an understanding of existence in all its unhappy glory. Not to say I don't enjoy fairly tales--they're fun too. But I've never seen "it's depressing, who wants that?" as any sort of valid criticism. Ok, sure, it made you depressed--but why? Don't dismiss emotions on the basis of enjoyment; understand their purpose.

On the other hand, "because I'm great, that's why!" works as well as anything.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 23, 2004 7:52 am 
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I often get this from friends or other people: "why would I want to watch a movie that isn't happy?", "who wants to watch a movie where there are no redeeming characters?"

Finally I just got sick of the whining and said: it's not why you'd want to watch them, it's why you should watch them. And I think people should watch Short Cuts.

That reaction is very common, but keep in mind, they're not looking for any type of emotional or intellectual stimulation, as you are, but rather, a way to pass the time.

Or, equally likely: They're looking for escapism, with a laugh and a giggle, whereas, you're looking for a hand on your shoulder, as if to say, "I understand."

Although, even the best of us succumb to the former once and a while, and rightfully so. I just watched Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 23, 2004 12:03 pm 
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That reaction is very common, but keep in mind, they're not looking for any type of emotional or intellectual stimulation, as you are, but rather, a way to pass the time.

Or, equally likely: They're looking for escapism, with a laugh and a giggle, whereas, you're looking for a hand on your shoulder, as if to say, "I understand."

Although, even the best of us succumb to the former once and a while, and rightfully so. I just watched Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.



What? I'm not looking for any hand on the shoulder--I'm not so insecure in what I enjoy that I need validation. I just don't view "it was depressing" as any kind of valid criticism for a movie to be bad or not worth watching. Even one or two friends who do enjoy film on a level more than entertainment have said this, or something to the effect of "I only want to watch happy movies" and I really just got tired of hearing it.

I'm not sure how this came across as some kind of elitism where I have to chide people who watch movies to be entertained--that this is some kind of "us vs them" sentiment. It has nothing to do with that. It has everything to do with my irritatation at what is essentially not a valid argument for a film to not be worth watching. This goes for all films. I'm sure there are films meant as entertainment that aren't totally happy.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 23, 2004 2:00 pm 
Mr_sausage wrote:
I'm not sure how this came across as some kind of elitism where I have to chide people who watch movies to be entertained--that this is some kind of "us vs them" sentiment. It has nothing to do with that. It has everything to do with my irritatation at what is essentially not a valid argument for a film to not be worth watching. This goes for all films. I'm sure there are films meant as entertainment that aren't totally happy.


I think the thing is that watching a film for pure mindless entertainment is just as valid as watching it for intellectual, emotional, meaningful entertainment. we can all enjoy films we find to be lacking as far as quality goes, and we can also dislike films that are masterpieces of the craft. Sometimes I can't stand to watch a mindless popcorn flick b/c it may be so technically horrible. Likewise, I can be completely bored stiff of a film that is historically important and that i may be interested in for that reason.

This is rambling and not really on topic so let me bring it back to a point.

I think that when you're watching a movie "it's too depressing" is just as valid as "it insults my intelligence with its sub standard plot". It's just that one relates to the viewer not enjoying the felling the movie gives them, and the other is a viewer not enjoying the film's techniques or lack thereof. So when someone says 'it's depressing' its not so much a critique of the film, as it is a critique of how the film makes them feel and their desire to not want to feel that way. In my book that's totally valid because what the person is actually saying is "the film triggers the emotional response of depression in me, and I don't want to watch a film that has that effect on me." just as I don't want to watch a film that makes me feel revulsion and horror ('Faces of Death" type films). It's actually kind of a good critique of a movie b/c it says that that film has succeeded in having an emotional impact on a person, whether it be happiness , depression or what have you.

so uh, i think you're both right


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2004 12:38 am 
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I got mine yesterday and was incredibly pumped. Thought that when the wife went off to do something I could pop it in and watch it (It's been basically 6-7 years since I've seen it.) Unfortunately the wife opened up the box and read the back and is now interested in watching it with me. And since I'm a pussy I said we could wait until the weekend and watch it together. I'm afraid she won't like it, unfortunately, basically for the reasons stated above: Because it's depressing. It'll kill me, though, since I love the movie so much (and have been dying to get it on DVD for forever.) She's actually reading the book that came with the DVD and seems to like it so far, so maybe she might like the movie.

Awesome set, though, from what I've seen. I've looked over most of the features and read the short stories. I know the movie and stories are not exactly the same, but there's a lot in those stories I don't remember. The interview between Altman and Robbins was pretty good, as was the doc on Carver. I'll probably watch the Luck, Trust and Ketchup tomorrow night.

I'm disappointed that the commentary and Kael interview isn't on it, but am still very happy with it. It was worth the wait. I snuck a peak at the film itself and from what I saw the transfer looked great. I noticed also on the laserdisc that the Carver short stories were actually on the disc itself, having to be read off of the TV. I'm very glad they actually just included the book. Actually this is something I'd love to see Criterion do again.

Can't wait for this weekend to watch it again.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2004 4:24 pm 
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Michael wrote:
why anyone would want to spend three hours watching a large array of characters fucking up


I feel that way every day at work (myself included!)


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2004 4:29 pm 
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A slightly positive review: http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/read.php?ID=13409


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 26, 2004 2:32 pm 
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After finishing reading Carver's stories that come with the DVD, I must say that I'm very glad that I saw the film first. I don't know if it's because Altman's characters remain so fresh in my mind after seeing Short Cuts a few days ago. But Carver's writing style didn't do much for me - too dry. In fact, I enjoyed reading Altman's intro more than any of those stories.

I prefer Altman's interpretation.. more fascinating, heartbreaking, lively. For instance, Altman created two character - the singer mom and her cellist daughter. To me, they are very meaningful and wonderful characters because with their songs and music, they establish the mood/ tone of the whole film.

"I'm a prisoner of life!" Damn those songs. I couldn't get them out of my head.


Last edited by Michael on Fri Nov 26, 2004 5:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 26, 2004 4:58 pm 
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A question.

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 adore Nashville and Short Cuts. My kind of folks (Altman creates some of my favorite characters of all time.. believe it or not I would not mind lunching with Millie from 3 Women) :oops:

Another question.

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?


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 26, 2004 5:21 pm 
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pret a porter seemed agonizing at the time (after loving short cuts) and the player worked much better for me at the time than when i re-watched on dvd. whether it hadn't aged so well for me or i wasn't in the right mood at the time is up to debate. still, i'd choose it well above pret a porter.

i empathize completely w/ millie's co-workers in 3 women though, having worked w/ a somewhat similar male version, who i, through my miraculously negative energy, managed to shut up, a feat no one else at that job (mental hospital, hmm, even more similar than i thought) could manage to do despite sleeping and listening to their headphones.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 26, 2004 5:37 pm 
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Michael wrote:
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...

Am I the only one who doesn't think The Player fits in with the rest of these films? Isn't its narrative just mainly concerned with Griffin Mill, the Hollywood producer? Everyone else is really a secondary character, aren't they? We aren't privy to the lives of very many other characters and the lives of these secondary characters don't really converge, or intersect all that much. Or is my memory of the film completely off?


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 26, 2004 5:54 pm 
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Is Millie really that awful? She's among the most complex Altman characters. A very tragic character I must say. She lives on a sad illusion by living off magazines, etc . Expecting to enter a society that will wholly embrace her. She has no clue. She talks talks talks ... either to cover up whatever wounds she has from the past or to fill up the emptiness with all the junk from the commercialism. It would have made my day to lunch with Millie going on and on about what she can do with rice krispies or canned tuna. Why? Because I do care for folks who are rejected or best, misunderstood by the society. To me, they are far more interesting no matter how annoying they can be.

Altman is the father of those rejected "children". No wonder why PT Anderson thinks very highly of him.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 26, 2004 6:10 pm 
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you're right andre.

sorry michael, but listening to a guy lie incessantly to make his life seem interesting was not my idea of a good time. i greatly enjoyed 3 women and found the millie character well developed and acted, but a little of the real thing can go a long way.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 26, 2004 6:44 pm 
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Lying sucks. I would never want to spend time with folks who lie to make themselves sounding interesting or looking better. However, I never got this impression from Millie. If she really lies, then I must have missed that big time. Remind me if you can. Sure Millie babbles on and on about dating, recipes, fashion etc - all the information that she picks up from Mc Calls. I don't think she ever intends to lie... I mean she doesn't make up .. she's merely living off the instructions coming from the supermarket magazines. She must have had some kind of identity crisis or something and I think she's too clueless to be lying. She's simply filling up her void with junk and passing it on to her co-workers.. which is why they find her very annoying. The real tragedy is that she couldn't see herself - the real self.. lying to herself you can say that. But lying on purpose to the others? I don't think so.

But it's pretty sure that I'm misunderstanding something here.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 26, 2004 6:49 pm 
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i'm pretty sure she was spilling some falsehoods (the guy in her building who she said was hitting on her who in actual fact wanted nothing to do with her for one), but i was talking more about my firsthand experience w/ a relatively comparable person.


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 27, 2004 6:49 pm 
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Quote:
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...

and
Quote:
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.

Health and A Wedding, sadly, are not currently available on dvd. Catch 'em on cable if you get the chance.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 30, 2004 10:29 am 
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analoguezombie wrote:
Both avenues work effectively but where Magnolia has it over Short Cuts is the way PTA edits and scores the sections. the momentum of Magnolia builds to a frantic crescendo and then the frogs are unleashed. Short Cuts doesn't carry the same force with it. It builds, surely, but its a more meandering pace. When the Earthquake hits it feels more like an epilogue than a climax.


It's been a while since I've seen Short Cuts (waiting for the Christmas holidays before I break open the Criterion!) but I think that you hit on the reason why I like Short Cuts a bit more than Magnolia when you mention that the earthquake does not have the same impact as the frogs. Short Cuts seems more realistic in that way in that there is no climax or defining event that changes the lives of all the characters as the frog scene does in Magnolia. It does seem that Magnolia is a very tightly controlled and guided version of the haphazard and overlapping nature of life that Altman captures. I kind of think of the Altman approach as that of following a story and recognising other characters with other stories in the background - a way of suggesting the complexity of the world. I guess he makes films for people who sometimes see people in the background and wonder about what their lives are like and organises them by a theme that binds them together from Country music in Nashville, the Korean War in MASH, the country house in Gosford Park, the fashion world in Pret a Porter, the Ballet company in The Company to the film world in The Player. For me his most successful films are those in which he can make this theme encompass as large a spectrum of people with different views and different lives as possible, which is why my favourites are films like A Wedding (you can choose to join a Ballet company and have a sense that you will be with likeminded people, but you can?t really choose your relatives or in-laws!) and Short Cuts (what could be more diverse than a portrait of a city). Those are not films about people having to relate to each other in work or war situations where they need to understand each other in order to achieve their goals, but in social and societal groups - the characters are attempting to simply exist, but without necessarily needing or wanting to understand other people and with no motivating factor or goal in a very individualistic society to try to understand others. So it seems that Altman is exploring the relationships between people in whatever form it takes and is producing a superb body of work in the process.

I think Paul Thomas Anderson has a different objective. Instead of emphasising how diverse the world is but with everyone having to exist together, I think he maybe wants to show how interconnected we are in Magnolia. The scenes such as the singing together and the frogs are the grand expression of that theme, but because it is about how everyone is interrelated and deals with themes of coincidence it can sometimes seem rather manipulative in how it gets characters together, and how events occur. The earthquake in Short Cuts is a significant event in the character's lives and the climatic event of the film, but they also have other concerns that they need to deal with, while in Magnolia the frog storm stops the characters in their tracks because it is so out of the ordinary and ends up having a major influence on the characters in directly affecting their stories (like stopping the gameshow host shooting himself, stopping William H Macy's burglary plan and giving the cop a reason to let him off when in the normal course of events he would have been arrested, or by overturning Julianne Moore's ambulance).

I think the above is neatly and more succinctly summarised in this quote:

jorencain wrote:
the Altman is a collection of barely-related stories (which I love), and "Magnolia" is an obvious tribute to Altman in form, but not so much in content.


The contents differ - they use the same style to a different end.

I guess your relative weighting of the films depends on how you feel about fate and coincidence.

TedW wrote:
I thought Boogie Nights had some fun stuff in it but is damaged by being too long and too in love with itself.


That's why I like Boogie Nights over all PTA's films so far, its own narcissism and self conciousness is a perfect match for the times and especially the Dirk Diggler character (just how long is too long?), punctuated by jolts when the reality of events bursts through such as in the drug dealer scene, the William Macy character finally snapping after all the running jokes about his wife with other men and the hilarious self-aggrandising documentary on Diggler that kind of begins the downward turn of Diggler in the film.


Last edited by colinr0380 on Fri Oct 06, 2006 7:02 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 22, 2005 1:14 pm 

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Two points to be made about the climax of one of my all-time favorite films:

1. Regarding Jerry's meltdown/murder, the girl has had to remove her top because of the beer spill. He then makes a move on her, she resists, and then he goes crazy with the rock. This is after all the previously noted frustration and confusion building throughout the film. Her possible availability, his need to keep up with Downey, etc., has him all confused. He's basically Lenny from Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men.

2. The earthquake scene is not without a brisk buildup in the form of the Low Note Quintet's rapid-fire version of Ellington's "I'm Gonna Go Fishin'" which plays under several quick scenes just before the quake hits. It is Altman's way of preparing the climax and it really works for me.

For more on Altman's use of music in the film, see Krin Gabbard's Jammin' at the Margins: Jazz and the American Cinema, which concludes with an entire chapter on Scorsese's New York, New York and Short Cuts.

And did anyone notice Anne Archer's transformation from a wife horrified by a stranger's death to someone who could say that "only" one person died in the earthquake? Her social climbing soiree and the clown guise have deadened her earnest humanity in a hurry. Quite an ending. What a film.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 28, 2005 5:34 am 
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One of the small things that pointed to Kurosawa's influence on Altman's work, I think, was the car accident scene with the kid. It was commented on in the Tim Robbins/Robert Altman interview, but it looks in the scene like Altman is using the telephoto lens to compress space (a phrase much used by Stephen Prince in his Ran and Red Beard commentaries!), because if you look at Lily Tomlin when she runs to the boy, she runs quite a long way. But Altman differs here is his use of the technique from Kurosawa by using it for a practical rather than stylistic purpose (i.e. the stunt child only has to do the fall, rather than roll off the car as well)

Watching the film again, I'm struck by how well related everyone looks - you could really imagine them being families. Lily Tomlin and Lili Taylor seem a particularly excellent mother/daughter match!


Last edited by colinr0380 on Sat Jan 20, 2007 2:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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