McCabe & Mrs. Miller original screenplay by Robert Altman & Brian McKay [pdf]. (NOTE: For educational purposes only)
1970 – ’71 was definitely a high-water mark for Film Director (not to mention a badass photographer to boot) Robert Altman. Hot on the heels of M*A*S*H (1970), McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971) was released and became, what many consider to be, one of Warren Beatty’s finest roles, and one of the best Westerns (or anti-Western, if you will) ever made according to many film aficionados. It wasn’t your typical red-blooded Western by any stretch of the imagination. See it for yourself.
There was a definite charged energy on the set (shot completely in B.C.)– the reported tension between the egomaniac Beatty and the chill Altman– not to mention the sexual energy between Beatty and Christie, who were deep in the throes of a passionate love affair– is there any other kind of affair with Beatty? Then there’s the haunting film soundtrack including the legendary Leonard Cohen that accompanied Zsigmond’s “flashed” film negative. A truly ballsy move– Altman and Zsigmond shot the film “pre-fogged” through a number of filters to maintain the visual effect they wanted, rather than manipulate it in post-production. That ensured that studio wimps couldn’t later tune-down the film’s look to something more safe and conventional. Vilmos Zsigmond’s brilliant work would garner him a nomination by the British Academy Film Awards.
A pretty fantastic hour-long BBC doc on Altman that I’d never seen before. The bulk of it deals with Gosford Park but they do a good job of giving a pretty thorough rundown and are able to include most of the major players from his long career. Most notably, it features considerable footage of Altman doing that thing he was always so careful to insist he never did: directing.
In Voices from the Set, Tony Macklin shares with his readers the interviews he conducted during the 1970s with many of Hollywood’s greatest stars. Because it was an era where the Old Hollywood was still extant, and the new cinema was burgeoning, he was able to meet the old with the new-actors, directors, producers, writers-and make some of his own memories along the way. Interviews with old masters Alfred Hitchcock and Howard Hawks are juxtaposed with the new breed Martin Scorsese and Alan Rudolph and the mavericks Robert Altman and Sam Peckinpah. Icons such as John Wayne and Edith Head are included, as well as relative newcomers Stockard Channing and Richard Baskin. Voices from the Set is a unique vignette of Hollywood history, a snapshot in time, ideal for the film buff, film historian, for anyone with an interest in the intriguing personalities that made it what it is today. This book is an opportunity not to be missed.
Listen to the audio interviews with:
- David Seidler: (MP3 format, approximately 12 minutes)
- Robert Altman (part 1: MP3 format, approximately 50 minutes)
- Sam Peckinpah (MP3 format, approximately 48 minutes)
- Sidney Poitier (MP3 format, approximately 58 minutes)
- Vilmos Zsigmond (MP3 format, approximately 105 minutes)
- Leigh Brackett (MP3 format, approximately 70 minutes)
- Lee Marvin (MP3 format, approximately 9 minutes)
- Martin Scorsese (MP3 format, approximately 90 minutes)
- Howard Hawks (MP3 format, approximately 107 minutes)
- Richard Sylbert (MP3 format, approximately 67 minutes)
- Charlton Heston (MP3 format, approximately 89 minutes)
- Robert Altman (MP3 format, approximately 8.5 minutes)
- Edith Head (MP3 format, approximately 38 minutes)
- Warren Beatty (MP3 format, approximately 25 minutes)
- Stockard Channing (MP3 format, approximately 38 minutes)
- John Wayne (MP3 format, approximately 80 minutes)
- Alfred Hitchcock (MP3 format, approximately 43 minutes)
- The Best Jewish Cowboy: An Interview with James Caan
- “Plant Your Feet and Tell the Truth”: An Interview with Clint Eastwood
- The Ballad of Stella Stevens: An Interview
Check out Voices from the Set at Amazon.
Picture above: Clint Eastwood checks the camera angle for a scene in The Bridges of Madison County.
Paul Thomas Anderson on the set of A Prairie Home Companion
“[Paul Thomas Anderson] talked about working as the standby director for Altman on A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION and how he was honored to be what he considered (in a loving way) the legs and mouthpiece for Altman who was ill at the time. Altman would tell him, “Go tell Meryl not to do that hand thing,” and he would go and say, “Hey Meryl, Bob doesn’t want you to do that hand thing.” [Brilliant. He seemed like a beaming errand boy telling this story.] The insurance company wouldn’t bond the film because of Altman’s failing health concerns so PTA was brought on to sit right next to Altman every day. And learn.”
An audience member recounting Paul Thomas Anderson’s tale of being hired as a “back-up director” on Altman’s A Prairie Home Companion, as told to director Jonathan Demme in a Q&A for The Master..
BBC Omnibus: Robert Altman in England (2002)
Linked to a pretty fantastic hour-long BBC doc on Altman that I’d never seen before. The bulk of it deals with Gosford Park but they do a good job of giving a pretty thorough rundown and are able to include most of the major players from his long career.
Most notably, it features considerable footage of Altman doing that thing he was always so careful to insist he never did: directing.
The James Dean Story, a 79 minute documentary chronicling the life and times of Jimmy Dean, came out two years after the young actor’s death. Most notably, the film was directed by Robert Altman, a young director who would eventually make MASH, Nashville, The Player, Gosford Park, etc. You can find a downloadable version of the documentary over at the Internet Archive.
Robert Altman’s Nashville (Full Film) with audio commentary by Altman.
A Decade Under the Influence (2003)
Decade Under the Influence,” a feature-length version of a three-part series to be shown on the Independent Film Channel in August, is a breezy, uncritical, frankly nostalgic documentary about Hollywood in the late 1960’s and early 70’s. It was a time when the studios, reeling from their failure to attract the new generation of filmgoers, briefly threw their gates open to outsiders — mainly young directors formed by film schools and highly conscious of the European art film tradition.
Directed by the screenwriter Richard LaGravenese (“The Fisher King”) and the director Ted Demme (“Blow”), who died last year, the film is a standard-issue parade of talking heads interspersed with clips. It does little but reinforce the romantic notions about 70’s filmmaking that seem to have taken root among the current generation of Hollywood’s young Turks.
Here, indeed, are the usual suspects: Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, William Friedkin, Robert Altman, Peter Bogdanovich, Dennis Hopper and Paul Schrader, each trying to account in his own way for the fleeting moment of artistic freedom with which all their careers began.
Mr. Schrader presents the most cogent, and certainly funniest, explanation of the 70’s boom in personal filmmaking: the studios, stunned by big-budget bombs like “Hello Dolly” and “Star,” were willing to give money to anyone who could tell them he could provide what the new audience wanted. And since these young directors had no track record to speak of, there was nothing to prove they could not.
The picture, which opens today in New York, has the undiscriminating temperament of a fan, blithely placing Mr. Coppola’s magnificently made “Godfather” on the same plane as Mr. Hopper’s slapped-together, and today all but unwatchable, “Easy Rider.” As the clips mount up, the sense of smug, generational entitlement on which many of these films depended becomes depressingly clear: here, in clip after clip, are cocky young men (Jack Nicholson, Elliott Gould, Dustin Hoffman) venting their self-righteousness on cardboard establishment figures, a suspiciously large number of them played by women. (The excerpt from “M*A*S*H,” in which Mr. Gould and Donald Sutherland bully a couple of nurses, seems particularly egregious.)
The decade did, of course, produce two enduring feminist stars: Julie Christie, who speaks in the film with the radiant sincerity that has always been hers, and Jane Fonda, who does not appear but is ably represented by her best director, Sydney Pollack. Curious, then, that both are represented in “A Decade Under the Influence” by films in which they played prostitutes, “McCabe and Mrs. Miller” and “Klute.”
“A Decade Under the Influence” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or guardian) for its language and images of sexuality, violence and drug use.
Directed by Richard LaGravenese and Ted Demme
R, 108 minutes
Source: The New York Times