He’s been making movies for 50 years, but Hollywood maverick ROBERT ALTMAN tells Miles Fielder that with his latest film, The Company, he had to start from scratch.
obert Altman. the Hollywood maverick. is 7‘) years old. He‘s been making movies for 57 of them. llis first work involved contributing (uncredited) to the script of a (icorgc Raft comedy. C/irisonas live. and the same year he received his first screen credit. ('man drinking‘ -~ a bit part in the Danny Kaye classic. The .S'eerel Life o/‘ll'a/rer Mary).
During the course of the subsequent six decades Altman received more awards than most of us have had hot dinners. and got Best Director ()scar nominations for five of his most well known films: MAS/l. .\'ashvi//e. The Player. Short Cats and (mg/ma Park. In all this time he's worked outside of the Hollywood stlidio system. developing and refining his unique style and embodying the term 'American auteur‘.
You'd think you couldn‘t teach such an old dog new tricks. .\'ot so. His 5()th film. The Company. sees the old master working with Chicago‘s Joffrey Ballet and picking up some new skills.
‘I approached The Company in a different way than I had any of my previous films.’ Altman says. ‘It was a whole new learning process from the first day. Now that I‘ve done it. I don‘t know what my next film is going to be like. because I don't think I can approach film the way I did before any more.’ I‘m not sure I know what he means. OK. so the salty old dog‘s never made a film about ballet before. but The Company is a kaleidoscopic view of a very precious world — in the same way that The Player and PM”)! a Porter were portraits of the film and fashion worlds. Furthermore. Altman employs his own idiosyncratic approach to filmmaking — ensemble casts. overlapping dialogue. wide screens and long shots.
24 THE LIST 2%; Ar,» '9: Mr. 9"" 2
‘THOSE DANCERS DON'T RELATE TO ONE ANOTHER AS INDIVIDUALS, THEY'RE A TRIBE'
He remains a little sketchy on this matter. He says when he first read the script. co—written by the film‘s nominal star Neve Campbell (she was a trained dancer before she started screaming for Hollywood) and one of Altman‘s acquaintances. Barbara Turner. he didn‘t think it was for him. ‘I don‘t know anything about dance.’ he says. ‘Tben I thought. “Why am I avoiding making this film? Why shouldn‘t I try out something new?”
Despite what he says. The Company looks. sounds and feels like an Altman film. I suggest as much to the auteur and he agrees. ‘Any piece of art made by me is going to be part of me and so is going to be recognisable as one of my films.’
He adds: ‘It was a whole new learning process.‘ Ah. I‘m beginning to see what he's getting at. I‘ve been coming at this from the wrong direction. The end result may. inevitably. look like an Altman film. but it was the septuagenarian's personal experience of making The Company that was different from everything that had come before.
‘These dancers are unlike anybody I‘ve worked with before.‘ he says of the remarkable Joffrey ballet troupe. ‘They are so disciplined. it was like directing one person. They don't relate to one another as individuals. they're a tribe.‘
Altman‘s working with another tribe on his next film. Paint. a look into New York‘s art world. There. he may experience discipline being replaced by decadence.
The Company is on selected from Fri 7 May. See review page 27.
Lights, camera. act/on . . .
GFT is 30 years old. Hurrah!
ON 2 MAY, THE GLASGOW FILM Theatre celebrates 30 years as one of the top independent cinemas in the UK. Re-opened as a single screen cinema in 1974, over the years it has been lovingly restored and transformed into a glorious two- screen picture palace. A tribute will also be paid to the GFT’s forerunner cinema, the Cosmo, arguably the first art house/continental cinema to be established outside of London. The Cosmo will be celebrating its 65th birthday on 18 May with a special presentation of a preview of the new print of Jacques Freyder’s excellent Carnival in Flanders. All tickets will be at 1974 prices — 50p. A bargain at double the price.
THE SHORTLIST FOR THE JIM Poole Scottish Short Film Award has been announced and it looks like it's going to be a bumper year (see Cameos new brochure for details). The ten finalists' films will be screened before the awards ceremony on Sunday 30 May at 2.30pm. The winning filmmakers will receive a cheque for 5.7.1000. limited distribution of their film and much more. Free tickets available from the Cameo Box office now. tel: 0131 228 4141. There will also be a screening of the winning films at the GET on 15 June.
THEATRICAL DOCUMENTARIES are wanted to represent the UK at Docuspace, a new pan- European Documentary Film Festival this November. See www.docspace.org.uk. Deadline 21 May.
THE MAN WlTH NO SUITCASE 18 back on Sunday 2 May with Orient Excess. a night of kung fu masters. ice cool hitmen. wandering samurai. giant robots and unique re- interpretations of two Eastern classics. Hard Boiled and Battle ROya/e. it's an offer you really can't refuse.