Major American film-maker Robert Altman and Finland’s Aki Kaurismaki, plus France‘s Claude
Sautet and the team behind Monsieur Hire.
INDEX 18: LISTINGS: WEEK ONE 27 WEEK TWO 28
All quiet on
One ofthe key American directors ofthe 705. Robert Altman talks to Tom Tunney, reﬂecting on the reissue ofhis 1971 masterpiece McCabe and Mrs Miller and his subsequent disenchantment with the Hollywood mainstream.
‘I think the Western died because it just became a
formula thing and people moved on and didn't need that kind of frame. All the stories were told — everybody knew everything. But it was dead when I made McCabe and Mrs Miller. there weren't many Westerns being madc.‘
So speaks Robert Altman. denying personal
responsibility for putting the horse opera on Boot
Hill. Brieﬂy in Britain to promote the re-release ofone of his most highly regarded films. 19 years on this austere. dreamlike commentary on the American past is as compelling and original as ever. Almost every pistol-packing convention is turned upon its head. Warren Beatty's anti-hero wears ‘Eastcrn' clothes and comes a very poor second to Julie Christie’s brothel madam in the
brains department; Leonard Cohen's songs bathe
the stark winter locations in a mood of hypnotic reﬂection and the violence when it comes is brutal. perfunctory and ultimately meaningless. In the American Cinema before Spielberg. Altman was THE director of the 70s. the cutting edge ofboth ironic content and innovative technique in a succession of movie satires which systematically demolished the assumptions of the various Hollywood genres. What M‘A ‘S'H (1970) did for the war movie. The Long Goodbye (1973) managed for the private detective thriller. Nashville ( 1975) for the musical and McCabe and
Mrs Miller( 1971) and Buffalo Bill and the Indians
(1976) for the Western. Characters immersed in situations beyond their control. a visual style which tended to swamp the individual in background detail and extended scenarios which spread out creatively in all directions. these and several other of his movies took big screen drama into challenging new territory. but their very variable box office performances meant that by the early 80s Altman was well out of the
commercial mainstream. Since that time he’s concentrated mostly on low budget adaptations from the theatre. accepting this career shift as a simple economic reality.
‘You try to get a film like My Left Foot made in America and you‘re not gonna do it unless you use Eddie Murphy. They just target for the existing market. nobody tries to create a piece for a new audience and that‘s the only thing that interests me. I just do a different kind ofwork. I don't do what they do and I can‘t do it and I don't i do it very well when I try to do it. ifl try to do it. ‘ So the kinds of films I make. the people who are marketing and selling films now aren't particularly interested in. and the kind offilms they would want me to make I’m not interested in. l
‘I saw Batman on a plane coming over here and l was just appalled. It waw just boring after a while. The work on it was excellent. but to make it such a thing. It's like Disneyland. When they open that Disneyland outside of Paris and the whole state of Florida is becoming Disneyland. I guess then it becomes a major thing in the world: “Let‘s go to these places and see these events. " And they‘re not events. they're just diversions. It‘s like walking through a circus So if life's a circus. I‘m working the sideshow — with the freaks!
‘With McCabe opening now. 19 years later. it
has a new audience. ldon't know whether it‘ll be perceived as a new film because there's so much of this — we do so much publicity. talk. blah. blah. blah. about everything and by the time it gets through the audience knows what it is — they don't have to see anything. They just say. “this is an old film." so it‘s not experienced like something new and exciting. The film has to carry its own impact. I like to say what you're not going to see. not what you're going to see. You‘re not going to see the standard Western film. it's been made.‘
The obvious question: is there a consistent theme running through his films'.’ ‘I see a theme throughout those things now. I see my finger prints. Ididn't necessarily in the 70s. I thought they were just so different from one another. but now I see that they‘re not. I think I‘ve always had an alienated persona. I‘ve always put somebody in a game that they don't know the rules of and consequently they can’t win it. Those are the characters that interest me. the misfits. the loners. the ones that don't fit in. They try to fit in. you know they want to. but ultimately they lose because they just can‘t play the rules. because they don‘t know the rules.‘ (Tom ‘l‘unticyl
Md 'al)(’ and Mrs Miller l [5) plays the l'fili/tlittrgh Film/tvase/rum l’rilllto 'l‘llt'J-lxvll'll. .S'ei' film Listings for programme details.
The List 30 April — 3 May llNll15