Sometime in the last year I bought the Criterion Collection special edition of SHORT CUTS (1993) (my personal Altman favorite) but only in the last week did I sample the bonus material. In addition to the bonus disc of docs, deleted scenes and typical bells and whistle whatnot it came with a reprint of the 160 page book of the Raymond Carver short stories that the film was based on and was published when the film was first released. I had been saving the book for...I don't know what but I actually read it and rewatched the movie now being able to pinpoint the sources and enjoyed it more than ever."Movies Now More Than Ever" - Slogan for Griffin Mill's (Tim Robbins) Studio in THE PLAYER (1992) After watching the rest of the various extras - docs, deleted scenes, etc I lent the disc and the book to a literary-minded friend who works with me at the theater at the end of last week. No great cosmic significance here, just interesting to me that I had absorbed and passed on one of Altman's greatest works just days before his passing. It's sad but fitting that PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION was Altman's last movie. Its sad obviously because there will be no more films - seasons will come and go without his large cast revues and the circling cameras, overlapping dialogue, and insightful interplay. It's fitting because he said in interviews that PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION was a film about death - the end of an era. Many other directors have adopted some of his techniques (though his stuff is in a satirically sillier vein Christopher Guest has been often compared to Altman - more on that and his new movie FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION in a future post) but nobody has really come close to what he did. So the man has retired but the extensive body of work he has left us with that I for one know will be discovering and re-discovering the rest of my days. He was right on the money when he once said : "Filmmaking is a chance to live many lifetimes." More later...
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
R.I.P. Robert Altman (1925-2006)
"Retirement? You're talking about death, right?" - Robert Altman (1925-2006) I just filled up my Netflix queue with Robert Altman movies I haven't seen yet. I figured out that I've seen 15 of his 40 something films plus that Tanner '88 Showtime series. Surprising to find that a number of notable movies of his are not available on DVD at the current time - BREWSTER MCCLOUD (1970) (which he often said was his favorite) , HealtH (1980) ,THIEVES LIKE US (1974) ,COME BACK TO THE 5 AND DIME JIMMY DEAN JIMMY DEAN (1982), Hell even his film debut THE DELINQUENTS (1957) is missing in action. Pretty shabby treatment for movies that are constantly being referred to in various online cinema forums as cult movies. "What is a cult? It just means not enough people to make a minority." - Robert Altman The first Altman movie that I remember seeing was POPEYE (1980). It was at the same theater that I work at part-time now - the Varsity. I was 10 and of course had no idea who Altman was. I learned as I grew older and saw his classic work (M*A*S*H, THE LONG GOODBYE, NASHVILLE among others) how uncharacteristic POPEYE was - Altman didn't "sell out" by signing on to the ill-fated Robert Evans project but his trademark vision barely surfaced in the murk of that cartoon adaptation. Images from it clash greatly with memories of films from the same period - compare POPEYE to the sublimely confusing 3 WOMEN (1977) and it is almost impossible to process that it is the work of the same director.