Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Robert Altman is dead

One of the last American film mavericks has died at the age of 82.

I became aware of Altman's work in the usual fashion-I saw a movie of his when I was a child and only understood what I was looking at when I got older. The movie was "Popeye" and at the time it was a big thing because Robin Williams was starring in it. As a very small child, I did not like it because it was not animated.

The next Altman movie I saw was "M*A*S*H*," which was a little hard to watch initially because I grew up with the tv series and so seeing Donald Sutherland as Hawkeye and a different Henry Blake was weird. I also was not ready for the meaness and the daily brutality that the characters dealt with. I think in many ways the movie made the better case for how people create a livable situation out of the unthinkable, simply because Robert Altman was able to elicit stories and reactions that were definitely not allowable on television during the time period of the tv series.

I then saw the "Long Goodbye " and "Nashville", both of which I think were as much a commentary on the 1970s as they were their own narrative. I remembered when "Tanner '88" came out, I cursed the fact that we did not have cable. I remembered thinking that it had to be more interesting that some of what was on tv at the time. I am pleased that Altman was able to do an update to Tanner.

The last Altman film I saw was "The Prairie Home Companion" and I was not disappointed. I think that it was a fitting end to a strange and wonderful career. I wonder if Sweet By and By was sang at his funeral.

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