Posted Oct 28 2015

Altman - This Movie - Like This Man - Rocks

Dir: Ron Mann

Starring Robert Altman, James Caan, Robin Williams, Bruce Willis, Paul Thomas Anderson. Elliot Gould, Sally Kellerman, Lily Tomlin, Julianne Moore, you know, your basic all star cast


At least one of us here at lastword had the opportunity to meet Robert Altman on two occasions – once in London and once in New York. And he was a difficult son of a bitch both times. But no one can deny that amongst the 39 movies he made, there are more than a few that stand so tall, it’s easy to see why so many others fall in his shadow.

Mann’s film benefits greatly from the full participation of Altman and the Altman family/estate. It’s a pleasure to see a doc that doesn’t need to provide “interesting” animation to fill in over the lack of visual footage, but here has the man himself – in candid conversation, on stage talking back to his audience, in repose with this family through a good deal of previously unreleased home movie footage, even extracts from previously unseen shorts, and it’s plain to see this is something of a treasure trove. Even when celebrity talking heads appear, they are there not to dig out anecdotes, but to define the term “Altmanesque” – something that at first feels awkward but really starts to work as Altman’s story unfolds.

And whichever way you look at it, Altman’s is a remarkable story.  Just look at M*A*S*H, Brewster McCloud, The Long Goodbye, McCabe and Mrs Miller and Nashville – all in the space of a few short years. Chuck in Popeye for bravery and a fall from grace that saw the man re-emerge with the likes of The Player and Short Cuts and you just have to stop and go “Wow!”

Altman’s body of work is as remarkable as it is influential. And the strength of Mann’s film is that he captures the man in all his ornery glory. This is Altman from the horse’s mouth, the way it would have liked it.

Makes you want to go straight out and watch at least five movies again right away. Plus strangely great to see a clip from The Whirlybirds after all these years.


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