Robert Altman

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zedz
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#226 Post by zedz » Wed Nov 22, 2006 6:06 pm

Plenty of great artists have died in my time, but this news really took me unawares. It was hardly unexpected, but still, it was like a rush of air out of the room.

Now is hardly the time to be ranking the great living (or recently ex-) directors, but Altman's legacy has a richness and depth few could match - and surely no American director from the same period. Unlike the legacies of some of the canonical names being tossed around (which have already been generally settled), I think it's one that will remain alive and volatile for a long time to come, with waves of reassessment and reinterpretation. Just as the critical establishment is barely coming to terms with the totality of Fassbinder's output a quarter of a century after his death, so will Altman's gloriously unruly filmography be teasing us for some time. There's a wonderful lack of consensus about his body of work, and, as noted, even his strangest misfires have elements to recommend them. Maybe, in the fullness of time, they'll turn out not to have been misfires at all.

I still have little idea what my favourite Altman film is or will be, but the one I had to watch last night was Nashville. I was sort of shocked at how definitive that urge was.

This is certainly a contender for The Great American Movie, and it's a perfect demonstration of how innovative, precise and accomplished Altman could be, despite the carefully contrived illusion of chaos. Sorry Barmy, but there's a level of artistry on display here fully the equal of the less 'fun' directors you idolize. The film has one of the greatest soundtracks ever recorded (in more than one sense) - listen to how the sound segues from scene to scene, listen to how complex the organisation of sound is within scenes, and note how brilliantly naturalistic and non-naturalistic the sound can be at any given moment (not all sound sources are on-screen, and a particular sound source - Walker's truck is the most obvious example - can continue to dominate a scene long after it's passed through it). And while you're at it, apply the same attention to the visual side of things: the arrangement of multiple elements within a fluid frame; the orchestration of movement within the frame; the rhyming of movement and composition between consecutive shots belonging to different scenes.

And none of this is empty showmanship - all of these techniques tie in with a rich, complex, non-judgemental understanding of the world and characters he's depicting. The film is briliantly funny, and rollicks along in predominantly comic mode for an hour and a half or so, but in that final hour you get a stunning, intoxicating mixture of registers and emotions that opens up all sorts of ideas and questions about life, relationships, community, America.

A lot has been said about Prairie Home Companion being an ideal last film, but I'd also like to propose The Company as the perfect penultimate film for Altman: a beautiful, airy film that celebrates youth and creativity and sums up the perpetual youthfulness and curiosity of the director. Thanks Robert, it's been a blast.

Anonymous

#227 Post by Anonymous » Wed Nov 22, 2006 6:07 pm

Mr_sausage wrote:The only thing his death has changed is the mood, not people's opinions of his work.

That's right. I'm still in shock after reading the news, because those directors that are most dear to one's heart seem kind of immortal.

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Gordon
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#228 Post by Gordon » Wed Nov 22, 2006 7:18 pm

Barmy wrote:So who all has seen Countdown?

I have. It has a fair slice of suspense, but it's quite boring, though I wouldn't mind seeing it again - this time in a high-quality 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer, as the panning and scanning made it look clumsy.

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jesus the mexican boi
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#229 Post by jesus the mexican boi » Thu Nov 23, 2006 1:06 am

That cunt Jonah Goldberg wrote this on the National Review blog:

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Robert Altman

His passing is no doubt sad to his friends, family and fans. Though when an appropriate period has passed, we might have a fuller discussion of his merits as a director. Personally, I never saw the genius his fans saw.
Posted at 2:46 PM

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david hare
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#230 Post by david hare » Thu Nov 23, 2006 1:12 am

That cunt Jonah Goldberg wrote this on the National Review blog:

Hahahaha!

The world's full of 'em!

marty

#231 Post by marty » Thu Nov 23, 2006 2:23 am

jesus the mexican boi wrote:That cunt Jonah Goldberg wrote this on the National Review blog:

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Robert Altman

His passing is no doubt sad to his friends, family and fans. Though when an appropriate period has passed, we might have a fuller discussion of his merits as a director. Personally, I never saw the genius his fans saw.
Posted at 2:46 PM

Who the fuck is Jonah Goldberg and why should we care what he thinks and what exactly has he contributed to society? Beetles that live in shit have done more for society than this Jonah Goldberg.

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The Invunche
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#232 Post by The Invunche » Thu Nov 23, 2006 3:07 am

Why are people reading National Review? Do they like being manipulated and lied to?

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John Cope
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#233 Post by John Cope » Thu Nov 23, 2006 3:12 am

I know I do.

Napoleon
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#234 Post by Napoleon » Thu Nov 23, 2006 5:42 am

Altman's films reveal themselves to be richer and more valuable over time and repeated viewings, so...
jesus the mexican boi wrote:Though when an appropriate period has passed, we might have a fuller discussion of his merits as a director.

is quite ironic in the overall context of his summation.

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Don Lope de Aguirre
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#235 Post by Don Lope de Aguirre » Thu Nov 23, 2006 6:57 am

That cunt Jonah Goldberg wrote this on the National Review blog:

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Robert Altman

His passing is no doubt sad to his friends, family and fans. Though when an appropriate period has passed, we might have a fuller discussion of his merits as a director. Personally, I never saw the genius his fans saw.


I have no idea who this guy is but in that I agree with him... does this make me a cunt too? :-k

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davida2
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#236 Post by davida2 » Thu Nov 23, 2006 9:02 am

Hmmm...methinks both Altman and his similarly irreverent comrade Imamura are kicking back in some sort of afterlife, with a few drinks, and having a big laugh of approval over this cVnt-laden, Antonioni-bespoiled thread.

Jonah Goldberg - meanwhile - already lurks within our "where are they now" files, his liberal arts degree undoubtedly being put to great use. Maybe he's the right-winger who took Annie Hall to the infamous rock concert. Perhaps we should capture him and study his habits, or at least force him to watch A Wedding until he recants.

Sorta surprised the National Review is still being published in these tumultuous times in which we all live. Takes all kinds, I guess.

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justeleblanc
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#237 Post by justeleblanc » Thu Nov 23, 2006 11:40 am

Is anyone irked by the many journalists who have written short bios of Altman's works without seeing these films (just a guess)? I'm sure this is common, but for some reason it's bothering me this time around. The AP's article names his Southern Trilogy (Gingerbread, Cookie, Dr T) and Popeye as being all bad films -- which they aren't -- and then talks about how wonderful his films like Nashville, Mash, Player, & Short Cuts are, but does so ingenuously. Maybe I'm being silly, but a blind overview of his films by someone who probably hasn't seen them is so frustrating me today.

I only fear what will happen when Godard dies. "His flops (Le Petit Soldat, Tout Va Bien, King Lear) and his masterpiece (The Stories of Cinema)..."

By the way, did anyone else watch McCabe & Mrs Miller on tuesday night?

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gubbelsj
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#238 Post by gubbelsj » Thu Nov 23, 2006 2:00 pm

justeleblanc wrote:By the way, did anyone else watch McCabe & Mrs Miller on tuesday night?


Yep. Sadder than ever this time around....

marty

#239 Post by marty » Thu Nov 23, 2006 7:11 pm

Don Lope de Aguirre wrote:
That cunt Jonah Goldberg wrote this on the National Review blog:

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Robert Altman

His passing is no doubt sad to his friends, family and fans. Though when an appropriate period has passed, we might have a fuller discussion of his merits as a director. Personally, I never saw the genius his fans saw.


I have no idea who this guy is but in that I agree with him... does this make me a cunt too? :-k


Uhhhh, yep!

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tavernier
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#240 Post by tavernier » Thu Nov 23, 2006 7:14 pm

jesus the mexican boi wrote:That cunt Jonah Goldberg


I've heard Jonah called a lot of things, but that's a first! =D> =D>

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Mr Pixies
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#241 Post by Mr Pixies » Thu Nov 23, 2006 9:31 pm

I'm just getting into Altman, and there's a lot to get into, and what I've got into has been great. Thank you Mr. Altman for not dying before making all these films.


colinr0380 wrote:Well that's a pretty awful triple blow. I rewatched Hairspray and 3 Women only a couple of weeks ago too.


What is the other blow from? You scared the shit out of me, thinking John Waters was dead, that would really be awful, looked it up and it's Ruth Brown, not familiar with her outside of Hairspray.

David Ehrenstein
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#242 Post by David Ehrenstein » Thu Nov 23, 2006 11:45 pm

Multiple blows.

Betty Comden and Philippe Noiret are dead.

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#243 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Nov 24, 2006 6:52 am

Mr Pixies wrote:What is the other blow from? You scared the shit out of me, thinking John Waters was dead, that would really be awful, looked it up and it's Ruth Brown, not familiar with her outside of Hairspray.

Sorry to worry you! It was a message moved from the passages thread. The 'other blow' was Gary Graver, and I'd only just acquainted myself with his work seeing F For Fake and the original Toolbox Murders in the last couple of months.

Although Philippe Noiret's passing since I posted that is depressing too. Criterion has had to post a lot of RIP notices on their site recently. I'll probably rewatch Coup De Torchon over the weekend for his performance (sorry Matt, I haven't got Masques).

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#244 Post by David Ehrenstein » Fri Nov 24, 2006 12:51 pm

Noiret first overwelmed me in Zazie dans le metro. He is also amazing as an a clef Roland Barthes in Techine's J'embrasse pas.

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#245 Post by kinjitsu » Fri Nov 24, 2006 3:45 pm


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Michael
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#246 Post by Michael » Fri Nov 24, 2006 7:43 pm

Altman's legacy has a richness and depth few could match - and surely no American director from the same period.

Thanks for saying that, zedz. Absolutely true.

I still have little idea what my favourite Altman film is or will be, but the one I had to watch last night was Nashville. I was sort of shocked at how definitive that urge was.
This is certainly a contender for The Great American Movie, and it's a perfect demonstration of how innovative, precise and accomplished Altman could be, despite the carefully contrived illusion of chaos.

I often find myself saying that 3 Women is my favorite Altman film simply because I'm a sucker for films depicting dreamy, hallugenic landscapes (no wonder why Satantango leaves me crippled for days, now weeks) and films starring Shelley Duvall. 3 Women contains both! Quite a feast for me. I have to thank Altman for discovering Duvall in Texas because there is NO ONE like her in the world of cinema...and the world. Nashville.. I love this film for so many reasons. I attended Lily Tomlin's reading in Manhattan years ago. What a remarkable woman she is. She constantly expressed deep love for not only her lover Jane Wagner but also for Altman. My deaf partner (you Invunche back off for once!) expressed something that I didn't notice before - Altman used real deaf kids to play Lily's children. He said that it's totally respectable of Altman to do something like that because most directors fail to achieve something like that even today.

zedz, I find it interesting that you consider Nashville the contender for the Great American Film. What do you think of Short Cuts? That film gets to me every now and then. Some folks I know despite this film and I suspect it's because it reminds them of the painful cynicism of the world we're living in today. And how disconnected we can be with our loved ones without really seeing or being able to recognize it.

I'm going to watch A Prairie Home Companion for the first time tonight. I hope I won't cry too hard.

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#247 Post by david hare » Fri Nov 24, 2006 10:29 pm

Michael if you'd watched Prairie before Altman died you would not have been able to wipe the smile off your face.

Now that he's gone you'll watch it (as I have again twice since then) and still laugh, but also cry - the moment that cracks me up now is the old lady's "eskimo kiss" - I become inconsolable. But then he comes right back with Reilly and Harrelson doing a string of appalling jokes and the tears mix with the tears from laughter.

Listen sometime to the commentary track with Altman and Kevin Kline. Altman is in great form, and when Kline comments about his character, Noir making a sexual proposition to the Angel of Death, Altman says, "Chirst, that's one broad you'd go out of your way to avoid!".

You'll love it. It's his gift of a huge messy wake for us, sweetheart. Not to mention being a flawless farewell to a life in films at the level of Dreyer's Gertrud.

marty

#248 Post by marty » Sat Nov 25, 2006 12:17 am

I also agree that Prairie Home Companion is a wonderful film having seen it twice in cinemas. It is a fine way to leave us and very fitting given the film's themes and small-town characters. It's hilariously funny and very moving.

I was appalled recently when I read a writer for the film e-zine, Cinematical, calling the film Altman's least deserving film if the film gets honoured at the Oscars next year as if it will be more of a posthumous gesture than on the merits of the film. It may not be as brilliant as Nashville, Short Cuts or my personal favourite, MaCabe and Mrs Miller but I think it ranks amongst his best.

Anonymous

#249 Post by Anonymous » Sat Nov 25, 2006 12:47 pm

I'd just like to chime in that the ending of Quintet was one of the most (literally) unforgettable and emotionally affecting climaxes I've ever seen in a movie. This may not be a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it's much, much better than its reputation and, seemingly, succeeds 100% at what it set out to accomplish.

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#250 Post by tavernier » Sat Nov 25, 2006 11:10 pm

The Onion gets into the act

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