Robert Altman

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Mitt Outsound
Joined: Wed Jan 30, 2019 2:34 pm

Re: Robert Altman

#501 Post by Mitt Outsound » Fri Feb 22, 2019 1:20 pm

solaris72 wrote:
Thu Feb 21, 2019 11:36 pm
Composer Tom Pierson has posted a number of recordings on bandcamp for free download, including his soundtrack to Quintet.
Wow. Many thanks for this. Really enjoyed the Quintet score. I need to revisit Altman's film and see how this score plays. I saw it decades ago and have no recollection of the score.

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misterjunior
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Re: Robert Altman

#502 Post by misterjunior » Sun Jul 14, 2019 11:22 am

Altman is, if not my favorite filmmaker, certainly in my top 3-4, and I'm thrilled to be able to say that after years of scouring the Internet and video/record/thrift stores for any sign of them, I've finally gotten my hands on HealtH and Jazz '34. The fact that the former is generally regarded as terrible is of no consequence-- I have it, and i will finally be watching it! I've heard Jazz '34 is actually a terrific companion piece to Big Bob's unsung 1996 masterpiece Kansas City, so I'm looking forward to viewing that one perhaps even more.

I've long wished that Criterion or Masters of Cinema or Arrow-- any label that puts care into its Blu-ray and DVD releases-- would get hold of Quintet and give it a proper release. The version included in the "Films of Robert Altman" box was nice enough, I suppose, but I long to see it in Blu-ray and released on its own. Of all the films on my personal "misunderstood, underrated and/or lost classics" list, Quintet is the one I think I feel most strongly about people having misjudged. I think it captures better than most any other post-apocalyptic film I can think of what such a world might really be like-- the atmosphere is so dreary, dreamlike and hopeless, and the way it's shot is fascinating and beautiful. And what a great film score, too.

And I'll throw in my support for A Wedding as an Altman masterpiece, too.

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ando
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Re: Robert Altman

#503 Post by ando » Mon Jul 15, 2019 7:14 pm

misterjunior wrote:
Sun Jul 14, 2019 11:22 am
Altman is, if not my favorite filmmaker, certainly in my top 3-4, and I'm thrilled to be able to say that after years of scouring the Internet and video/record/thrift stores for any sign of them, I've finally gotten my hands on HealtH and Jazz '34.
Altman is up there among my favorites, too. There's a decent version of HealtH currently on YT (far better than the copy I initially watched) and I concur with your good opinion on Jazz '34. Kansas City is a mixed bag for me, though. Looks and feels like a recreation, including the movie stars who I am supposed to believe are early 20th century Midwest ruffians and sharks. They give good performances in a dream world KC, not the one I hear when Count Basie or Lester Young or even Bird starts playing. Probably has a lot to do with how Altman remembered it as a child. While the glamour of that world is apparent the joy/exitement that you hear in the music of that era is not. But it's fun in spots.

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domino harvey
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Re: Robert Altman

#504 Post by domino harvey » Wed Sep 04, 2019 6:06 pm

Altman's Kansas City has been released on Blu-ray in Germany. Here's DVDBeaver on the disc

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hearthesilence
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Re: Robert Altman on DVD

#505 Post by hearthesilence » Wed Apr 08, 2020 6:06 pm

Gregory wrote:
Sat Apr 04, 2009 4:04 pm
The cautious should avoid ordering from Rhapsody. My DVD of Jazz '34 arrived very scratched up along with two DVD-Rs that would not play due to being damaged. I have tried to contacted them about returns/refunds by phone, email, and through the form on the website and have been ignored at every turn, leaving me no recourse but to dispute the charge via my credit card.
If one DVD had arrived rattling around in its case, I'd think it came loose by accident during shipping. With three such DVDs out of an order of six titles, I have to think they were simply not packed correctly by the supplier.
Way too late to get this now, but just wondering, was the Jazz '34 DVD a pressed DVD, and if so, does it look like a new transfer or like it was sourced from their VHS master? It doesn't look like it was ever made available outside of direct order to Rhapsody. (FWIW, the most common place I can find it are in library collections.)

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Gregory
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 4:07 pm

Bummer-hemian Rhapsody

#506 Post by Gregory » Wed Apr 08, 2020 11:37 pm

I could tell as soon as I opened it that it wasn't a normal DVD, and so many of the titles I received from Rhapsody in that order (including the covers) looked fishy and not professionally printed. Some of them were obviously DVD-Rs, though Jazz '34 appeared to be a "replicated DVD" (which I guess means it's made with some kind of injection molding). How much better that performs than a DVD-R, I don't know. Like most of what they shipped, it arrived damaged, so I test-viewed it and then paid to ship it back. This was more than a decade ago so I couldn't comment on just how poor the picture quality was. I recall it looking a lot like it had when I first saw Jazz '34 via cable a decade earlier. It was probably a VHS master, but it's been so long I honestly couldn't recall with any certainty.

WmS
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Re: Robert Altman

#507 Post by WmS » Wed Apr 08, 2020 11:54 pm

I watched the Rhapsody disc via interlibrary loan last year, and I remember the image as washed out and not too sharp. More telling, it was a one-chapter 90 minute DVD in which the film ended after 60 minutes. So the last 30 minutes of the DVD were just black. Seems like they put in the tape and went to get a sandwich.

Really great music film, though.

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hearthesilence
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Re: Robert Altman

#508 Post by hearthesilence » Thu Apr 09, 2020 12:52 pm

That's disappointing. It's too bad this film has never been given a good quality release. I was researching it a bit and looking up write-ups on retrospective screenings, the original broadcast and releases from years past. Combined with my own experience at MoMA, it looks like most people saw this via the 55-minute cut that was broadcast on PBS and elsewhere. (Apparently PBS carried it in January 1997. There are plenty of YouTube rips made of this cut from broadcasts outside of the U.S., complete with different narration that was dubbed in for foreign languages.)

Rhapsody's release is an "expanded" theatrical cut that should run 72 minutes. (The Jazz Institute of Chicago, which screened it last summer, noted that this film didn't actually get real theatrical distribution, at least not in Chicago.) This is the cut I saw at MoMA, from a 35mm print taken from Robert Altman's collection which is stored at UCLA Film & Television Archives, and what's probably been used for most theatrical exhibitions. Unfortunately, it's not a great looking print because even though the film print's wear and tear is minimal, it's clearly made from a video source, with the type of artifacts you'd only see in a video master, not to mention the loss in detail, color, etc. you'd expect from a video source. It's bizarre, but I'm guessing they cut this film together on video equipment, and somewhere down the line, Altman wanted a print made and unfortunately, they only made a video master instead of creating anything from the OCN.
Last edited by hearthesilence on Thu Apr 09, 2020 1:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

beamish14
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Re: Robert Altman

#509 Post by beamish14 » Thu Apr 09, 2020 1:18 pm

Is Altman's 1985 HBO film The Laundromat available anywhere? I believe it screened at Harvard's big retrospective of his work, but
it's frustratingly elusive online. This is what I detest about HBO Go-they act as if the channel didn't exist prior to the late 90's. I've even
found Rattlesnake in a Cooler.

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Rayon Vert
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Re: Robert Altman

#510 Post by Rayon Vert » Thu Apr 09, 2020 6:35 pm

It's on youtube at least, in bad quality.

beamish14
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Re: Robert Altman

#511 Post by beamish14 » Thu Apr 09, 2020 6:42 pm

Rayon Vert wrote:
Thu Apr 09, 2020 6:35 pm
It's on youtube at least, in bad quality.

my god, today is truly Christmas. Very much obliged!

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knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: Robert Altman

#512 Post by knives » Wed Jul 29, 2020 9:31 am

Finally got to Beyond Therapy and I'm in love. Generally farce doesn't work for me, but it manages to be just insane enough with the central pair underplaying things so much despite being the most mad that I had to get lost in it. Goldblum in particular is great just doing his thing in the most Goldblum way I've ever seen. It's like the missing link between John Waters and Almodovar.

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Robert Altman

#513 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri Jan 08, 2021 2:24 pm

I watched Altman's two Alfred Hitchcock Presents episodes, neither of which (unsurprisingly) retain any auteurist similarities to his later style, and neither of which are very good. Together is a lame exercise in Joseph Cotton trying to pull off a murder, mostly because his plan is so stupid that the reveal inspires nothing more than a "duh" moment. The motive is trite, and the anxiety around relying on certain support feels less suspenseful and more idiotically self-sabotaging. To be fair, the material is where most of the problems lie, but Altman isn't particularly good at imbuing even moderate tension and what we get is a detached competent director job.

The Young One is much better, and it's strange that this is the earlier ep he directed because Altman does command an unexpectedly uncomfortable disorientation at the very end after giving us a deceptively straightforward narrative.
SpoilerShow
There's no indication that the girl has murdered her mother and is trying to frame the older flirt, even though something is obviously going on. Her behavior of inviting him in and then resisting seems to go in a direction of exploring the dissonance in theoretical vs actualized application of liberation through promiscuity, and invites the possibility that her mother may be proven right in a harmonious ending- a kind of pre-Smooth Talk sobriety. But instead it goes in the total opposite direction with a series of behavioral shifts and methodical reveals that feel surreal in their intensity after a somewhat lame slow-burn of didactic finger-wagging at youth. Even the Code-abiding ending that is shoehorned in to convict the femme fatale anti-hero is a perplexing insert of unseen information that builds upon already concealed events the audience is still acclimating to, as the rapid intrusions disrupts the deliberate pace established for 80% of this narrative timeline.
I can't say the episode was great overall, but the end was a fun, cheeky change-up and I'd like to credit Altman with some of it.

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feihong
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Re: Robert Altman

#514 Post by feihong » Fri Jan 08, 2021 6:32 pm

knives wrote:
Wed Jul 29, 2020 9:31 am
Finally got to Beyond Therapy and I'm in love. Generally farce doesn't work for me, but it manages to be just insane enough with the central pair underplaying things so much despite being the most mad that I had to get lost in it. Goldblum in particular is great just doing his thing in the most Goldblum way I've ever seen. It's like the missing link between John Waters and Almodovar.
This makes this movie, which I've never felt compelled to see, sound really, really interesting.

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knives
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Re: Robert Altman

#515 Post by knives » Sat Jan 09, 2021 7:43 pm

It is. I still think of it every once in awhile. It easily makes for one of the five best Altman’s for me, though I am partial to him in no control comedy mode.

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knives
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Re: Robert Altman

#516 Post by knives » Wed Apr 21, 2021 2:59 pm

Just saw Prêt à Porter and I’m quite surprised at the toxic reception. To my mind it’s one of Altman’s best and definitely his best, bar the original, of his films in the Nashville style. It has so much wit and empathy posing as low stakes in order to ensure that the reality the women feel is placed on the audience. The movie is very sweet in its own fashion.

beamish14
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Re: Robert Altman

#517 Post by beamish14 » Wed Apr 21, 2021 4:07 pm

knives wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 2:59 pm
Just saw Prêt à Porter and I’m quite surprised at the toxic reception. To my mind it’s one of Altman’s best and definitely his best, bar the original, of his films in the Nashville style. It has so much wit and empathy posing as low stakes in order to ensure that the reality the women feel is placed on the audience. The movie is very sweet in its own fashion.

I don't despise it, but I certainly think it would be far better with Danny Aiello's story completely removed. It's not funny and is just incredibly awkward.

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knives
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Re: Robert Altman

#518 Post by knives » Wed Apr 21, 2021 4:15 pm

It is an extremely minor plot, but I think it is emblematic of Altman’s form of openness. The reveal is played in a non-plussed way and is quite ordinary without judgement. That outside of that fact Altman feels comfort portraying him as a brusque hot head is funny without being demeaning. I think his small plot works well in summarizing the film.

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Robert Altman

#519 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Apr 22, 2021 10:33 am

knives wrote:
Wed Apr 21, 2021 2:59 pm
Just saw Prêt à Porter and I’m quite surprised at the toxic reception. To my mind it’s one of Altman’s best and definitely his best, bar the original, of his films in the Nashville style. It has so much wit and empathy posing as low stakes in order to ensure that the reality the women feel is placed on the audience. The movie is very sweet in its own fashion.
I liked this a fair amount as well, though if memory serves HealtH is going to be hard to top for post-Nashville ensemble epics. There isn't much competition though- I absolutely hated The Company and A Prairie Home Companion, which strike me as tragic examples of a curious, attentive filmmaker disconnecting completely from his subjects with unintentional austerity. I may never formulate a rationale for why Altman is so inconsistent at actualizing his greatest strengths.

However, I have a working theory about what drives this sharp divide in quality. What works about Prêt à Porter and Nashville vs. those others, for example, is that Altman allows his subjects to venture from their focal point with flexibility, and in the process reveals that he isn't "allowing" movement, but instead earnestly showing how each person has their own unique focal point to approach with equal interest. The films that fail only do so when Altman tries to conform his characters around a focal point more rigidly. Obviously culture and mezzo systems are woven through these narratives, but fashion week and the country fest are loose connective tissues rather than a dance company or radio show's grounded fixed cores. When Altman attends to character over narrative, far more interesting and authentic narratives are spun, but when he puts narrative first, the artificiality shines through and characters are left as underexplored pawns.

Another way to put this is that paradoxically as Altman broadens his scope he captures more specific idiosyncrasies and ironies in their social contexts, begetting a peripheral view instead of tunnel vision. The satires hold empathetic warmth one way, but are aloof and cold in their observational nature in the other. I understand that even the worst examples can be argued as nonintrusive and so unconditionally validating to these worlds, but they don't inspire intimacy, they don't boldly venture into these characters' lives and meditate on their humanity. Prêt à Porter isn't one of Altman's best, but it is a good example of how Altman can tenderly balance an optimistic compassion for people with a light cynical satirical bite about systems and social interactions as non-mutually exclusive but dynamic processes orbiting one another to complete a dignified, amusing whole. It's a celebration of life, of opportunities for singular invaluable social engagements- occasionally absurd, and occasionally sublime in banality, rather than a semiconscious static travelogue of one detached environment, which is none of those things except excruciatingly banal.

I love, for example, how in Prêt à Porter Altman has Robbins and Roberts develop a romance against all expectations of movies- they don't venture out, they don't develop together and apart or move through systems or consult other parties to navigate problems (they don't even fulfill their expected character trajectories as established in their early scenes!) They just find themselves in a situation and give way to impulse and it's not championed or scorned, even though Robbins is established as having a wife in his first scene. Imposed morality or layered narrative becomes secondary to character authenticity, which itself spins a more honest narrative about the internal logic of emotional surges when two people come together.

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knives
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Re: Robert Altman

#520 Post by knives » Thu Apr 22, 2021 12:20 pm

Those two are actually in my top ten which I guess just goes with my idea that no one has consensus on Altman.

beamish14
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Re: Robert Altman

#521 Post by beamish14 » Thu Apr 22, 2021 12:31 pm

knives wrote:
Thu Apr 22, 2021 12:20 pm
Those two are actually in my top ten which I guess just goes with my idea that no one has consensus on Altman.

I think The Company is one of his major works as well. But then again, I'm the lunatic who has continually cited O.C. & Stiggs as being one of my absolute favourites.

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knives
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Re: Robert Altman

#522 Post by knives » Thu Apr 22, 2021 12:36 pm

Still need to get to that one.

beamish14
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Re: Robert Altman

#523 Post by beamish14 » Thu Apr 22, 2021 12:43 pm

knives wrote:
Thu Apr 22, 2021 12:36 pm
Still need to get to that one.

Like HealtH, it's a really angry "fuck you" to Reagan politics. The titular characters are execrable human beings, but bear in mind that Altman wants you to look at their upper-class, Arizona surroundings with absolute contempt. The MGM DVD doesn't do justice to what a well-shot film it is, and I keep hoping that it will get a Blu at some point.

It's interesting to consider which films Altman himself considered to be his finest. I know he was consistent in putting Brewster McCloud near the top (and I concur), but he also mentioned Kansas City quite a bit, possibly because it's the only one that touches on his upbringing.

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Robert Altman

#524 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Apr 22, 2021 7:37 pm

Rewatched HealtH and it confirmed my memory as Altman's greatest post-Nashville ensemble but also simply one of his greatest comedies (and perhaps his last great one, though I also need to see O.C. & Stiggs). It's hilarious how hyperbolically negative Reagan was about this film since it's so unapologetically transparent about its political satire. The social satire is great too though, and specifically in line with the auteurist claims that Altman makes antithetical films, here instead of making opposing genre markers a la 'the anti-western' or 'the anti-noir, he plays with human behavior. A running gag like Bacall's vain and deceptive character embodying unexpected traits alongside expected ones, particularly as a woman assuming an age 30 years older and priding herself on a typically disempowered 'virginal' status, are deeply ironic, funny, and also make total sense within the internal logic of Altman's milieu. These idiosyncratic twists slyly insinuate how pliable social politics are, and deflates any worth in ideological and cultural norms.

HealtH is far from perfect, can be thick in its didactic prodding and messy in its construction, but I admire it as a series of disjoined transient visitations into eccentric conversations, and the lack of cathartic arcs or momentous connective tissue is part of the low-stakes fun. So in that sense, this could be Altman's anti-Nashville.

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Robert Altman

#525 Post by therewillbeblus » Sat Apr 24, 2021 8:20 pm

knives wrote:
Wed Jul 29, 2020 9:31 am
Finally got to Beyond Therapy and I'm in love. Generally farce doesn't work for me, but it manages to be just insane enough with the central pair underplaying things so much despite being the most mad that I had to get lost in it. Goldblum in particular is great just doing his thing in the most Goldblum way I've ever seen. It's like the missing link between John Waters and Almodovar.
I’ll co-sign knives’ glee. This is an intelligent exercise where Goldblum and Hagerty’s eccentric personas are pitched at the de-romanticized, repelling tones that they would come off as in real life, outside of their typical movies that disguise their idiosyncrasies as safe and cute. And through doing this with genuine curiosity and respect for the weird in us all, Altman frames them as two of the most interesting and hilarious perfs ever, allowing them to become ‘naturally’ endearing the way I see strange friends in my personal life and perhaps the way some of my friends see me. This engagement includes blunt exposure and laughter ‘at’ their strangeness that is civil in its own way because it's in a compromised acclimation to their terms. The therapy sessions are also absolute gold with Altman intentionally going the polar opposite route of what anyone should expect in therapy- even back in the psychoanalytic-dominant 80s. I particularly loved how the characters (Hagerty often) have sound psychological revelations that are stunted by their therapists!

In a sense this is like a screwball comedy shot into reality, its inclusive details totally absurd and exaggerated but shed of the verbal artifice and getting at something strikingly familiar in the process. Of course it descends into farce plenty- especially in the end, so it's anything but "literal realism"- but the juxtaposition between the zany and the austere technique and ordinary settings help remind us that the world is inherently a strange place filled with strange people, and whether we go to the movies or look down the street- this is what it is. Still, I can see why critics hated this, because the bizarre behavior isn't translated in effortfully composed dialogue and staggered delivery, and characters aren't developed in traditional ways that include us in their growth or deliberate exposure between the couple. This is more like what would happen if you peered over at the peculiar couple at the table next to you at a restaurant, and then followed them into their own movie.

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