Tuesday, November 21, 2006

R.I.P. Robert Altman

Whatever the late director felt about "the industry" (The Player gives us a strong hint) Altman was a giant whose missteps and failures were as interesting as his unqualified successes. MASH, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, The Long Goodbye, California Split, Nashville, 3 Women, Streamers, Secret Honor, Tanner, Vincent and Theo, Gosford Park--and those are just the Altman pictures I love; I like several others, and find those I consider flops (like Quintet) to be at least interesting to puzzle over.

A Prairie Home Companion left me cold but I liked that he stares down death in that film with good humor--it is a kick in the teeth to the grim reaper as it prepares its embrace, and L.Q. Jones' character is surely a surrogate figure--and that here and with 2003's The Company he was experimenting with high-definition filmmaking. Altman changed with the times and I think changed them, too. Film, TV, theater, theatrical adaptation, opera; his maverick talent roamed everywhere. We are unlikely to see his kind again.

Celebrate his legacy with a commemorative screening. My pick: McCabe, a dirty, ornery, beautiful, wonderful film. Farewell Robert Altman.

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