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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Tuesday, June 02, 2020

entry arrow10:00 AM | The Film Meme No. 39

[39th of 100]. The films of Robert Altman are remarkable for their narrative sprawl, for their huge casts, for their overlapping dialogue. For these same reasons, they do seem to always be an either-you-love-it-or-you-hate-it affair. I think I got lucky that I was attuned to his way of filmmaking with my first brush of Altman cinema, which was 1993's Short Cuts. Oh, that movie was something else. I was first attracted to it because I was trying to be a writer, and Short Cuts had a literary pedigree -- an adaptation of the short stories of Raymond Carver. It amazed me how this one film managed to do a seamless interconnecting narrative of disparate stories from Carver's oeuvre. The literary adaptation was the start; and then I noticed the techniques we now call "Altmanesque." It was my gateway to my discovery of Nashville, M*A*S*H, The Company, A Prairie Home Companion, 3 Women, A Wedding, and The Player, all of which I love. The Altmanesque don't always land -- consider Dr. T & the Women or Prêt-à-Porter -- but even then, they are fascinating misfires. But for me, the ultimate exercise of the Altmanesque has got to be this 2001 film, which comes late in his life. I've always felt this film was the start of Altman feeling his mortality and gunning through work that would be definitive of a master in complete control of his talent. When he died in 2006 -- after surviving and working through a decade with a transplanted heart -- he proved to be at the peak of his artistry, having directed in succession this film about the English aristocracy in a whodunit, a 2003 film about a ballet company, and a 2006 film about radio artists in the twilight of their world. I love all three, but this film is the most delicious of the lot. Part of its appeal is its exuberant casting of top tier British actors playing out an upstairs/downstairs drama that would directly lead to Downtown Abbey on television. [Downton's creator was this film's Oscar-winning screenwriter.] Another one is its use of the murder mystery as a McGuffin, since the film is more concerned with the subtleties of class more than the identification of the murderer. Still another one is how drenched in atmosphere it is, correct to the exquisite detail, immersing us thoroughly in a vanished gilded world. That an American director could pull off a very British movie is amazing enough. This film is a gift. I hope it can be your introduction to the joys of an Altman movie. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich