{Of all lies, art is the least untrue - Flaubert}



Sunday, December 03, 2006

Robert Altman and American Cinema



When an artist dies, instantaneous interest is generated in his works among general public and his works are revisited by critics. I had not seen any of the film by Robert Altman, till he was alive, although several times I was just about to rent his films (last to last week, I shortlisted two films by Robert Altman and two by Mike Leigh, and decided to rent the later two), but I was intrigued by his films as they appear from reviews (great opera of a wide and varied ensemble cast with a central event having small scale character studies in particular, and American culture in general). I must admit that I have a general prejudice against American films for no solid reason, given a choice I will always choose the other.

Earlier this year, I compiled a list of directors to watch, country-wise, and intentionally left American directors. If this a confession box, let me confess, I have not seen even a single film by John Ford, Terrence Malick, Francis Ford Coppola (saw one of the Godfather, many years back on TV, I don't remember anything from it, not even the score by Nino Rota), John Huston, Howard Hawks, Robert Aldrich, Michael Curtiz, Vincent Minelli, Sam Peckinpah, John Cassavetes, Brain De Palma, Buster Keaton, Nicholas Ray, Sergio Leone, Andy Warhol. I have seen on film each by Orson Welles (its The Trial, not Citizen Kane) and Douglas Sirk. So, the only American directors which I have seen are Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Stanley Kubrick and Billy Wilders. In the contemporary directors I score bit better. I am more or less alien to the genres of Film Noir, Musicals and Westerns.

So demise of Altman, not only generated interest in his films, but American Cinema in general. To cleanse some of my guilt, I have planned to watch films by Altman for 2 weeks and following is the list I came up with, and in that order.

The Player
Nashville
Gosford Park
McCabe and Mrs. Miller
Brewster McCloud
M*A*S*H
3 Women
Short Cuts

Planning to write short notes on these films once I complete them. This list is based on reviews, trying to get a mix of his old, new and cult films, and more importantly the availability of films here. If you want to recommend any more Altman films (or any American director and films), please do so. You can help a poor soul in guilt-reduction.

A heartfelt obituary to Altman here. A more comprehensive one here. Altman's sketch by a fan here.

8 comments:

wildflower seed said...

I find M*A*S*H overrated. I would definitely add the films Long Goodbye, and Kansas City to your list. In terms of directors, I would add Sidney Lumet and Alan Pakula (especially their '70s output, although for Lumet, you could go further back to 12 Angry Men) to your list. Surely, Elia Kazan as well. And Clint Eastwood's debut directorial effort, Play Misty For Me (1971), is one of the best psycho-thrillers to have come out of that period. Finally, please see Lady From Shanghai and Touch Of Evil by Welles.

If you want to see a Coppola film, see Conversation before anything else.

:)

wildflower seed said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alok said...

You should definitely watch more films from the golden period of hollywood studio system ..the 1940s. specially the film noirs.

I haven't seen many of later day directors and classics from sixties and seventies. somehow i share your misgiving about american culture too. it is strange and unexplainable. i feel more at home in continental europe, even with literature or philosophy. i have hardly read anything from american literature.

Alok said...

wfs: i think anurag has seen touch of evil. he forgot about it :)

i don't know how has he managed to not see citizen kane or casablanca yet :)

Alok said...

another old school director is frank capra. it's a wonderful life is very good. people call it inspirational but it is actually quite dark and despairing :)

wildflower seed said...

Anurag
I also remembered : Bob Fosse (All That Jazz, Lenny) and Mike Nichols (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, which is one of my all-time favorite films, Graduate, Carnal Knowledge, etc.).

anurag said...

wfs, thanks a lot for the recommendations. I have 12 Angry men in my collection, will watch it soon. 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf' is in to-see list for long time, but my DVd library desnt have it.

And yes, alok is right, how come I missed 'Touch of Evil', I really liked that film. It is one of those films that smells of the bygone era, and has a terrific ending.

alok, I have heard a lot about 'Its a Wonderful Life', but as you said, I always thought it to be a Christmas movie. I have to see 'How Green was my Valley' too !

I dont why, I was never very interested in watching Casablanca (i will see it now, I have it on VCD, thanks to a friend who gifted it), but I am intentionally delaying to see 'Citizen Kane', as I am delaying 'Rules of the Game', 'The Third Man', 'Night of the Hunter' and 'Scenes from a Marriage'. Save something for the future :)

Alok said...

new post please.