McCabe And Mrs Miller

Warren Beatty and Julie Christie in McCabe & Mrs Miller

    As Ang Lee now redefines every genre he touches, so did Robert Altman three and more decades ago. Here’s his remodelling of the western, an “anti-western” according to him, though these days what Altman was doing decades ago has mostly been incorporated in the mainstream – the “anti-western” is now just a western. Warren Beatty and Julie Christie take the leads – he a lousy entrepreneur with a plan to build a whorehouse, she a Cockney madam with an opium habit and a determination to make McCabe succeed in the enterprise they agree to jointly undertake. They sleep together but she charges him top dollar. It’s that sort of relationship and that … Read more

Magnolia

Tom Cruise in Magnolia

    Paul Thomas Anderson’s follow-up to Boogie Nights disappointed those who were hoping for more Dirk Diggler and his prosthetic schlong. At 182 minutes it also caught out those who were watching at the cinema with a beer or two inside them – knotted legs don’t make for maximum movie fun. At home with a pause button it’s pure luxury. Stylistically it’s heavily in debt to one of Anderson’s readily acknowledged influences, Robert Altman – the overlapping dialogue, the wandering camera and the faintly disengaged performances. By which I mean the actors are not all constantly presenting three-quarter profiles to camera (no, not even Tom Cruise). Yes, Tom Cruise. How often is … Read more

Mash

Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould

An on-screen statement, put there at the behest of a nervous film studio, claims this film is about the goings-on at a field hospital during the Korean War. That statement apart, this is obviously a film about Vietnam, a war the Americans had already lost at home, if not yet out on the field of battle. Now, decades later, from the other end of the countercultural telescope, Mash’s relentless portrayal of the military hierarchy as being overrun by charlatans and buffoons seems a bit old hat. But the director making it had earned the right to his opinion. Robert Altman was a veteran of the Second World War who’d gone on to become … Read more

Dr T and the Women

Richard Gere in Dr T and the Women

If, as the old joke has it, gynaecologists are always up to their elbows in work, how much more taxing would that job be if you were Richard Gere? That’s the proposition that Robert Altman lays before us in a film that’s often dismissed, his last of a line of flops that lay between Short Cuts (1993) and Gosford Park (2001). But Dr T is really worth a second look because of what Altman is doing, possibly unbeknown to his cast. Scouring Hollywood, he’s found a handful of irritating, self-obsessed and unhinged actresses and cast them just as they are – or is it more the sort of type they very often play? … Read more