Robert Altman has been called a maverick, subversive, counter-cultural, anti-Hollywood- yet he was a major player in the so-called New Hollywood. He was an auteur that the great film critic Pauline Kael called the “master of large ensembles, loose action, overlapping voices, demonstrates…he can make film fireworks out of nothing.”
Robert Altman is decidedly not your typical movie director. His first major hit was at the rather ripe old age of 45. He is not associated with any specific genre. For the first 15 years of his professional life he made industrial films for the likes of International Harvester, Goodrich Tires, and Caterpillar. For the next 10 years of his life he toiled as a TV director directing dozens of episodes of Bonanza, Route 66, Combat, Peter Gunn, and Mystery Kraft Theater among others.
It was not until 1970 when a dozen directors turned down a screenplay that he was finally offered a major movie with recognizable actors. Some of those actors complained to producers of his unorthodox and questionable style. Yet the movie was made. The movie was M*A*S*H and the rest was history.
Altman’s career would last 36 years until the time of his death. During the course of those years he would be nominated 5 times for an Oscar as best director. He would be given an honorary Oscar near the end of his life for the body of his work. Altman is one of the very few film makers whose films have won the Golden Bear at Berlin, the Golden Lion at Venice, and the Golden Palm at Cannes.
Perhaps Roger Ebert put it best when he said, “One of Altman’s trademarks is the way he creates whole new worlds in his movies—where we somehow don’t believe that life ends at the edge of the screen.” “Mr. Altman makes movies the way other men go on binges- with an abandon that sometimes gets the better of him- and that should be preserved and protected.”
So whether we are discussing the hijinks of military doctors and nurses in the now classic anti-war black comedy that is M*A*SH, the reimagining of the American west that is McCabe and Mrs. Miller, the mind-boggling mix of music and politics which is Nashville, the scathing satire of Hollywood itself that is The Player, or the ultimate class system satire as murder mystery that is Gosford Park, you know you are in for a provocative look at life that will make you laugh, make you think and might very well ponder anew the human condition.
In this SDG we will watch 14 movies on our own prior to the class, and then meet to discuss the movie in detail. Throughout our discussion we will explore not only the cinematic aspects of their work but also the underlying philosophy of this great American auteur