Learning to Love Robert Altman

By Jason Diamond
There is hardly any film director that I have tried to force myself to like as much as Robert Altman. I’ve seen MASH twice, and couldn’t get into it; fallen asleep attempting to get into Nashville, and honestly, basing a film off anything Garrison Keillor-related makes me cringe a little bit, so I skipped his final piece of work.  But then something changed when I saw his 1973 adaption of Raymond Chandler’s novel, The Long Goodbye.  It was so good, and Elliot Gould is such a fucking beast, that I reviewed the circumstances (MASH and Nashville were seen under the influence of cold medicine or drunk) under which I watched both MASH and Nashville, and realized that maybe, it wasn’t Altman, maybe it was me.

So now as winter fast approaches, and I begin to stock up my Netflix queue, I am giving serious consideration to locking myself away for a few nights, and giving Altman’s work another chance. I will of course skip A Prairie Home Companion, and maybe Popeye too, but I their place, I maybe picking up Robert Altman: The Oral Biography, since it might also be helpful in my quest to finally like/understand the work of one of the most acclaimed America directors ever.

As this review points out: “Some speakers deify Altman; some recall his mean streak; some attest to his endless ability to confound conventional Hollywood thinking.”  Add in the fact that Matthew has already given praise to film books put out by Robert Altman publisher Alfred A. Knopf, and I may have the a chance to make this the season I learned to love Robert Altman.

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  1. i fell asleep when i first watched nashville, but it actually DOES make a lot of sense, as far as understanding the town. and try out The Player if you haven’t seen it.

  2. That’s on the list also. I’m surprised I wasn’t more into Nashville. I’m giving it another go.

  3. I’ve found Altman similarly hard to love. I think my favorite would have to be ‘McCabe & Mrs. Miller’. It’s so visually stunning and you rarely ever see Warren Beatty in a beard. Makes a fine double feature with ‘The Life & Times of Judge Roy Bean’, the hilarious and underloved Paul Newman frontier beard movie.