Dec 5, 2013

I am very proud to say

"This isn't Dallas, it's Nashville! They can't do this to us here in Nashville! Let's show them what we're made of. Come on everybody, sing! Somebody, sing!"

That I grew up in a Robert Altman household.  It is entirely possible that my parents have probably seen every single one of his films, even the bad ones.  And, it is also possible that some of the ones that I consider "bad", my parents do not think are bad, at all.  All three of us certainly agree on McCabe & Mrs Miller, which we all think one of the greatest films ever made.  

But I do not recall them ever talking about Nashville very much, and I am not sure how much either of them like it.

I had not seen it until a few weeks ago, and had always been intrigued.  I am here to state now just how wonderful and perfect this motion picture is.  There is so much to love about this film, and the last scene with Barbara Harris singing It Don't Worry Me is one of the most moving and touching things I have ever seen in cinema, and I hope one day to see it on a big screen.

Altman's grand idea of true ensemble filmmaking definitely hits some kind of peak here.  Altman was, of course, best known for the innovative way he recorded sound in his pictures. He could have as many as twenty four microphones recording in a single shot.  He would put mics on his actors, or hide the mics in lamps, or flower pots.  Afterwards, in post production, he would then, like a symphony conductor, meticulously mix and balance all the sound recorded from each shot, creating this astounding aural mosaic of such panache.  It was a seemingly artless realism that of course was built on artifice.

This type of sound production, innovative as it was, seems to have been lost on today's filmmakers.  I only occasionally get hints of it today in films like What Maisie Knew and Cary Joji Fukunaga's Jane Eyre (2011).

And, I must say, how refreshing it is to watch Altman's films today with multiple actors in single shots.  Something else which has vanished from the modern cinema.  Altman was a fantastic sculptor, if you will, and had a supreme eye for composition and blocking.  He was also known for using improvisational techniques with actors that preferred that style, but would stick with the script with actors that were uncomfortable doing that.

Altman also used a great deal of musicians and non actors in his films, and he loved and appreciated all different types of bodies and faces.  (I think of the magical bathing scene in McCabe & Mrs Miller.) Heck, he made a movie star out of Shelley Duvall! Altman worked in Hollywood, naturally, so there were still plenty of beautiful men and women, lovingly lit and shot in his films, too.

My favorite moments from Nashville would have to be the whole Sueleen Gay arc; the Godard inspired wreck on the highway; the political campaign; Karen Black making fun of Julie Christie; the vapid and so annoying BBC reporter; the Ronee Blakley breakdown scene; the performance at the Grand Ol' Opry; the nurse telling Keenan Wynn that his wife has died; Carradine's song, I'm Easy, and four different actresses thinking he is singing about them; Lily Tomlin's scene with her deaf child; the opening credits as a As Seen on TV record album; and, as I mentioned before, the ending of the film, one of my favorite cinema endings ever.

Gwen Welles as Sueleen Gay in Nashville

And, there are dozens of more things that I will pick up on, I am sure, every time I watch Nashville again.

All my love,

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