Other films for your consideration X

If you were to make a list of the greatest film directors, Robert Altman would probably not come to mind, but he should. For all his variability, Mr A did make some great films.

There are many that I would say not to watch (remember, this is just my personal opinion), films that misfire on many levels, even if they do have things of interest or merit (I think all Altman films have something of interest). “Images”, “Prêt-à-Porter”, “A Wedding”, “California Split”, “Gosford Park”, “Cookie’s Fortune”, “A Prairie Home Companion”, “3 Women” (with Shelley Duvall) and so on… I don’t enjoy “Short Cuts” either, though many do I know. It does not really come together, for me.

Altman, of course, did “M*A*S*H”. This is a wonderful film, mostly. It loses its way a bit towards the end. The stuff about Painless, and the extended American football game (I’m sure it is funny if you understand the game, but it is mostly an American thing) bore.

For a time, Altman filmed plays, but in a cinematic way. “Secret Honour” is great as a character study of Richard Nixon, and I have a soft spot for “Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean”.

The much derided “Popeye” is worth a watch. Yes, it’s hard to hear what is being said sometimes, but then Popeye always did mumble anyway, that was the point. Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall lead the cast.

As a comment on small town America, it’s hilarious and spot on. Sadly, the ending is lame.

“The Long Goodbye”, based on the detective story by Raymond Chandler, gets mixed reviews. It is based on the story and true to its spirit. Marlowe really is totally down at heel. Like many of Altman’s contemporary films, it looks dated now. I think people mostly object to the ending which is much different from the book.

Another favourite Altman film is “Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson”.

Based vaguely on a play and slightly less vaguely on real events, it tells a small part of the story of Buffalo Bill and his wild west show, which many people see as the beginning of modern show business. There’s much overlapping dialogue and parts are hard to follow, but repeated viewings help, especially on the big screen. And the cast is stellar: Paul Newman, Burt Lancaster, Joel Grey, Harvey Keitel, Shelley Duvall and even Geraldine Chaplin again.

And yes, it is supposed to be sepia.

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