Saturday, June 6, 2009

Sunday Funnies & Arts












As always, click to enlarge. For more Tom the Dancing Bug, Ben Sargent, Calvin and Hobbes, Doonesbury, Tony Auth, Tom Toles, and Zippy, go here, here, here, here, here, here, and here...

JUST A SONG: Woody Guthrie's "Deportee (Plane Wreck At Los Gatos)":
To Guthrie it is the "they" who took the money, who "chase us like outlaws," who are the anonymous ones, hiding behind legalisms to rob and exploit the migrants until there is nothing left but "dry leaves to rot on my topsoil." The use of the word "my" implicates all of us in the fate of the migrants, for it is we who eat "the good fruit."

Friday, Premium T. and I watched Robert Altman's Nashville. It was her first time and my sixth or seventh. As one of the top movies of the Seventies, arguably the best and most important ten years of American cinema, Nashville's place in film history is secure. I won't try to review it here because there's little I could add. But...

...talk about an opportunity to watch the hand of a master at work: Nashville is Altman at the absolute top of his game. Too often today, post-production is where movies go to die: A mediocre soundtrack and literally hundreds of cuts a minute mask a weak script and pedestrian direction. With Altman, though, post-production is where rough cuts became art. The overlapping dialogue is carefully mixed and the editing brings to bear his myriad abilities to direct everything from sprawling set pieces -- such as the opening of the film when all of the characters arrive at the Nashville airport and wind up in a mult-car highway crash -- to intensely personal moments such as Barbara Jean's (Ronee Blakely) on-stage breakdown. Most impressive of all is the club scene in which Altman distills a multi-character set piece down to Keith Carradine singing "I'm Easy" to Lily Tomlin while three other women think he sings to them:



Now watch the scene again. Notice how the slow, nearly unnoticeable zooms and almost casual pans set up the one quick cut towards the end of the scene. This cut enables the impression of Carradine and Tomlin looking at each other across a crowded room as if no one else were there. It is brilliant, meticulous film-making, the kind that most of today's directors have neither the skill, emotional insight, or artistic courage to pull off...

Here's the scene where Blakely, as a Loretta Lynn type, follows her heartbreaking song "Dues" with the on-stage breakdown:


Incidentally, the actors in Nashville wrote and sang their own songs. Blakely was the only real singer of the group, but whatever price Altman paid for that was more than made up for by the
immediacy of the various vocals. It certainly had a way of committing the actors to the scenes in which they sang...



Angels and people/Life in New Orleans: Repetition of form...

7 comments:

Roy said...

As usual, an interesting colection of the week's comics.

Nashville... I've always come away from that movie feeling uneasy. The music was really good, and "I'm Easy" and "Dues" are friggin' brilliant. But i always got the feeling that Altman was looking down his nose a country music and musicians the whole time, as if there were something gauche and naive and "inferior" about it. There are snide little asides about hillbillies and twang all through the movie, and I've always come away from it (once in the theater when it first ran, and twice on DVD, each time watching to DVD to see if the snideness was my imagination) feeling like Altman used country music the same cynical way the politicians in the movie were using the musicians. It's just never sat right with me...

K. said...

Roy: I don't dismiss your perspective, but I don't share it, either. The satire is pretty gentle, and I figure that in some ways Nashville was a stand-in for Hollywood. There's such a gamut of emotions in the film and none of them come cheap. Also, the character treated the most broadly was Geraldine Chaplin's BBC reporter.

SparkleFarkle said...

"...It is brilliant, meticulous film-making, the kind that most of today's directors have neither the skill, emotional insight, or artistic courage to pull off..."

OUCH! Perhaps Altman should be declared a saint? LOL! I am thinking, though, that Shelly Duvall is definitely underrated.

K. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
K. said...

I am an unapologetic Altman lover! Shelley is really funny in Nashville. Have you seen Thieves Like Us?

Premium T. said...

Nashville is poetic in its visual form, like a villanelle or a sestina. So very satisfying on so many levels. A ten-course meal, wine-paired.

(I was an Altman fan long before I met K.!)

Cowtown Pattie said...

Thanks for the linky love!

I must confess to never having seen "Nashville". Keith Carradine is another underrated actor in my opinion, along with Shelly Duvall.

Funny how different directors can bring out so many facets to an actor's repertoire.