Robert Altman, RIP


Robert Altman, February 20, 1925 - November 20, 2006.

Favourites: Thieves Like Us, Nashville, The Player, Short Cuts, and Gosford Park.


The Delinquents (1957) (Altman's big-screen directorial debut)
The James Dean Story (1957) (documentary) (co-dir: George W. George)
The Katherine Reed Story (1965) (short documentary)
Pot au feu (1965) (short)
Countdown (1968)
That Cold Day in the Park (1969)
MASH (1970)
Brewster McCloud (1970)
McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)
Images (1972)
The Long Goodbye (1973)
Thieves Like Us (1974)
California Split (1974)
Nashville (1975)
Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson (1976)
3 Women (aka Robert Altman's 3 Women) (1977)
A Wedding (1978)
Quintet (1979)
A Perfect Couple (1979)
HealtH (1980)
Popeye (1980)
Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982)
Streamers (1983)
Secret Honor (1984)
O.C. & Stiggs (1984) (released in 1987)
Fool for Love (1985)
Beyond Therapy (1987)
Aria (1987) - segment: Les Boréades
Vincent & Theo (1990)
The Player (1992)
Short Cuts (1993)
Prêt-à-Porter aka Ready to Wear (1994)
Kansas City (1996)
The Gingerbread Man (1998)
Cookie's Fortune (1999)
Dr. T & the Women (2000)
Gosford Park (2001)
The Company (2003)
A Prairie Home Companion (2006)


Active member
Happened to watch McCabe & Mrs Miller on the weekend. Altman's turn at the Western genre. I think he enjoyed turning a few western film myths on their heads. The production design was outstanding. His commentary track is really interesting as well, he was obviously a great director to work with, relying a lot on actor improvisation and instinct.


I'm am ridiculously film-illiterate, so I know this sounds like a dumb question: I saw Prairie Home Companion based on liking Nashville and Gosford Park (his only films i'd seen), and just didn't get what Altman was trying to do with it. He seemed like the last director who'd go that PBS and cheesy. Help me make sense of him. What is his deal? Does he have an aesthetic or ethos or are all his films just witty observations about American class difference? So many people I respect love him, and i want to understand.



Well-known member
i adore altman. faves have to be nashville, the long goodbye and mccabe and mrs miller. that's peak period really isnt it. gosford park slightly ho hum.


entered apprentice
Great director. Didn't get Gosford park though. Could be the amount of Brit actors in it though, so worthy-dull by rep most of them are, kind of acted as a de-intensifier on the whole experience?


Really like the sound design in stuff like M*A*S*H and McCabe and Mrs Miller, strange collage effect that seems more naturalistic, while at the same time conjuring up this dreamlike atmosphere.

First thing of his I saw was Images (1972), which popped up on late night night tv when I was younger ... can't remember it too well now, but it scared the hell out of me at the time ...

from imdb "A man and his wife visit their weekend cottage located in a scenic but isolated corner of the countrytside. The man is in good spirits but has his mind on other things. He doesn't pay much attention to his wife's concerns. She's experiencing a mental deterioration in which she "sees" a former lover who was killed years ago in a plane crash. A family friend now drops by to visit with his 12 year old daughter. The wife isn't always sure whether these visitors are real or imaginary."
Altman was one of the last of the great post-war modernist American film-makers (and for certain it was the box-office disaster that was Popeye, destroying his production company, that set him back for over a decade, dividing his film-making trajectory into two peak periods - late-60s to late-70s, and early 90s). Indeed, many of his films only now might seem dated precisely because the techniques he pioneered - rhythmic editing to soundtrack, multiple fragmentary plots, multiple simultaneous sound sources, multiple fractured identities, the subversion of classical (and neo-classical) film narratives, narrative coherence dissolving into a complex tapestry of motiveless characters, the construction of interconnections among apparently unrelated stories from a vast canvass of numerous actors, the splintered oneiric dimension of the self, structure and form over story and representation, among others - are now so taken for granted, though usually for all the wrong reasons, as to be invisible to contemporary audiences. He was among the first to structure a narrative according to the soundtrack (McCabe and Mrs Miller, edited according to the rhythms of Leonard Cohen's music; Nashville, using the 24-track recording system in a one-to-one pairing with the film's 24 characters, etc). Even his less popular films were innovative: the schizophrenic narrative of the oneiric psychodrama, Images, though clearly influenced by such as Polansky's Repulsion and other films from the European avant garde (like Bunuel's Belle de Jour), went on to inspire the likes of David Lynch; the neo-noir The Long Goodbye, adapted from the novel by Raymond Chandler, though featuring one of Bogart's most famous characters, Philip Marlowe, irreverently subverts the noir genre, with the stereotypical hardboiled private eye now portrayed as a hapless, maladjusted incompetent, comically out of touch with contemporary society and morality.

And Short Cuts, in particular, in many ways anticipates the present pomo/connectivist/hypertext/cyberspacial reality - with its perception of life that explodes the form of the linear centered narrative and renders life as a multiform flow, a perception of our reality as one of the possible - often even not the most probable - outcomes of an open or indeterminate situation, this idea that other possible outcomes are not simply cancelled out but continue to haunt our "true" reality as a spectra of what might have happened, conferring on our reality the status of extreme fragility and contingency. As Zizek observes, "'Short Cuts,' with its series of faiths, contingently hitting each other. Very Deleuzean: global nonsense where contingent encounters produce local effects of sense in order to understand what subjective in our late capitalist society means."

Of course, there were some real turkeys in Altman's output: the SF feature Countdown, released in the same year as 2001: A Space Odyssey, which I cringed my way through a few years ago, seemed like a Kubrick script - as directed by Ed Wood ...

But even in other areas Altman resisted hegemony. He certainly also contradicted and challenged the ridiculous ageism prevalent throughout the film world: at the age of 79 he made The Company, the Malcolm McDowell-featuring independently-funded art film about ballet, directed a four-hour television satire for HBO about American presidential politics; directed A Wedding for the stage at the Chicago Lyric Opera, and initiated and completed pre-production for two new films - quite an achievement for anyone at any age. How many other film-makers of his age/era who are still alive are still working [or allowed to work]? Apart from Godard, Boorman (at 78, Boorman's just released his latest film - A Tiger's Tail - a scathing satire on contemporary Irish predatory capitalism, starring Brendan Gleeson) and a few others, none.

Great director. Didn't get Gosford park though. Could be the amount of Brit actors in it though, so worthy-dull by rep most of them are, kind of acted as a de-intensifier on the whole experience?

Try this.


entered apprentice
Thanks for that link, Padraig. Is it time to have an "Inland Empire" anticipation/discussion thread yet?


That's a good one but it's not his best. Too serious. People just like the Leonard Cohen song with the titles. After that who remembers anything


Nashville or Short Cuts is clearly his best, it's the form he invented, fully baked, peak of powers etc

Brewster is the bravest, it's the young arrogant work that tells of unfollowed potential


Everyone should see Brewster McCloud especially Luke, because it's a film about the Exquisite Science created by a fellow dopesmoker