Read Mindjack's Daily Relay
tracking trends and developments
in digital culture

home | archives | about us | feedback

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Altman's Oscar: Maybe Too Little, Surely Too Late
I first encountered Robert Altman when I was about 15 or 16 years old. A self-professed film nut, I rented The Player with that typical teenage art-film arrogance, something I could lord over my heathen friends watching high-budget comic book sequels. My friends of course, had the last laugh when about 20 minutes into the film, I admitted defeat and angrily switched the video off. I couldn't make head or tail of plot or character, couldn't tell whether the movie was supposed to be this sloppy and disorganized or whether I was just too stupid to pick up on it. (No one, by the way, likes to be made to feel stupid.) In any case, it took me another 15 years to finish watching The Player and appreciate Altman for the film master he was (and is).

Altman is an acquired taste, and I don't think I'm the only one who spent a few years acquiring it. Clearly anyone who wasn't raised by Martin Scorsese and spent their childhood watching Italian neo-realism and Swedish art cinema is going to find Altman a little strong at first. He doesn't "lay it out there" for the viewer like most American filmmakers. Instead, you get to know his characters and situations through spending time with them, listening to their conversations (which often have that off-handedness that is easily confused with sloppy writing) and finally gleaning their motivations by getting to know them. That's true of all Altman's work (at least, all the work I've seen).

In this sense, the Altman style is unique for both America and Europe (although he clearly owes a debt to Fellini). If being unique, intriguing and creative (as well as having a successful 40-year career) isn't enough to be considered a "master" of the art, I don't know what is.

Altman's blending of the documentary and narrative form is his trademark and for the record, it's not at all sloppy or disorganized. (If you want to see sloppy and disorganized, try Michael Cimino.) On the contrary: Altman has a firm grip on his films, it's just well-hidden. Though they may take an hour to get going, by the end, the viewer is glad they spent that hour, and realizes why they had to. It isn't even that his films are profoundly naturalistic (although they do tend to tilt that way), just that he wants his worlds to have depth and breadth instead of existing for the sole purpose of advancing the plot. Altman's characters live in a real (but not the real) world, one that is bigger than them and their problems. Sort of like real life.

That's probably the key to understanding why we are slow to "get" Altman. We're not ready for Altman until we're ready for the real world. Maybe that explains why it's taken the Academy this long to recognize him, too. Too little? I hope not. Too late? Absolutely.

By the way - this blog post is part of the Robert Altman Blog-a-Thon.
:: posted by Ian Dawe, 3/04/2006 Comments (4)
Links to this post

4 Comments:

At 12:16 AM, Anonymous said...

So true. Robert Altman is one the great master filmmakers who has made some of the greatest films ever made (Nashville; 3 Women; and Short Cuts). I'm glad he's getting that oscar. He deserves it.

-Jake

 
At 10:43 PM, Anonymous said...

Nice site!
[url=http://bjvpjpjm.com/bmsy/amtu.html]My homepage[/url] | [url=http://jmtbaqnb.com/agae/uqnl.html]Cool site[/url]

 
At 10:43 PM, Anonymous said...

Thank you!
My homepage | Please visit

 
At 10:43 PM, Anonymous said...

Well done!
http://bjvpjpjm.com/bmsy/amtu.html | http://ywltscvc.com/loiq/ejsz.html

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Subscribe to our RSS feed:
Subscribe with Bloglines

REVIEWS & FEATURES

 

Your Ad Here

More from Mindjack:

weblog:
Daily Relay

Tracking trends and developments in digital culture

shop:
T-Shirts
Mugs
Support Mindjack

Google
Web
Mindjack

Mindjack Release
Sign up to receive details of new issues


Archives prior to April, 2005 are from Donald Melanson's personal film blog.

Links

Blogs
Roger Avary
Bitter Cinema
Cinematical
Cinema Minima
Film Journey
Filmmaker Mag Blog
A Girl and a Gun
GreenCine Daily
Filmjourney
harrylimetheme
Indie Film Blog
IFC Blog
Like Anna Karina's Sweater
Masters of Cinema
Reel Reviews Podcast
Twitch
Wiley Wiggins

Film Criticism and Theory
James Beradinelli
Bright Lights Film Journal
Combustible Celluloid
Dual Lens
Roger Ebert
European Films
The Film Journal
Images
Jim's Film Website
Guardian Unlimited Film
Long Pauses
Metaphilm
Milk Plus
The New York Times
The New Yorker
Not Coming to a Theatre Near You
Reverse Shot
Jonathan Rosembaum
Salon A&E
Senses of Cinema
Slant Magazine
The Stranger
Strictly Film School
The Village Voice

Movie News
Ain't It Cool News
Movie City News
Dark Horizons
The Movie Blog
Cinema Confidential
IndieWire
Coming Soon

DVD News & Reviews
The Digital Bits
DVDAnswers
DVDBeaver
DVDFile
DVD Journal
DVDTalk
DVD Times
DVD Verdict

Print Magazines
Cinema Scope
Film Comment
Independent Film Quarterly
Inside Film
Movie Maker
Premeire
Sight & Sound
Total Film
Uncut
Vertigo

IMDb Search