Oh, Mr Robert Altman- why did you have to go so soon?
Amazing Director- film genius Robert Altman passed away Monday at age 81.
I credit this man with introducing me to the brilliant Bud Cort (M.A.S.H. and Brewster McCloud)
and for creating mylifelong crush on Elliot Gould-- and inviting me into dreamy ghost like scenarios --like those of Three Women and IMAGES. Susannah York in Images evokes all the creepy strangeness - that would make David Lynch envious.
The following is from writer Rick Lyman for NEW YORK TIMES:
"A risk-taker with a tendency toward mischief, Mr. Altman is perhaps best remembered for a run of masterly films — six in five years — that propelled him to the forefront of American directors and culminated in 1975 with what many regard as his greatest film, “Nashville,” a complex, character-filled drama told against the backdrop of a presidential primary.
They were free-wheeling, genre-bending films that captured the jaded disillusionment of the 70s. The best known was “MASH,” the 1970 comedy set in a field hospital during the Korean war but clearly aimed at antiwar sentiments engendered by Vietnam. Its success, both critically and at the box office, opened the way for Mr. Altman to pursue his ambitions.
In 1971 he took on the Western, making “McCabe and Mrs. Miller” with Warren Beatty and Julie Christie. In 1972, he dramatized a woman’s psychological disintegration in “Images,” starring Susannah York. In 1973, he tackled the private-eye genre with a somewhat loopy adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s “The Long Goodbye,” with the laid-back Elliott Gould playing Philip Marlowe as a 70s retro-hipster. And in 1974 he released two films, exploring gambling addiction in “California Split” and riffing on the Dust Bowl gangster saga with “Thieves Like Us.”
Unlike most directors whose flames burned brightest in the early 1970s — and frequently flickered out — Mr. Altman did not come to Hollywood from critical journals and newfangled film schools. He had had a long career in industrial films and television. In an era that celebrated fresh voices steeped in film history — young directors like Francis Ford Coppola, Peter Bogdanovich and Martin Scorsese — Mr. Altman was like their bohemian uncle, matching the young rebels in their skeptical disdain for the staid conventions of mainstream filmmaking and the establishment that supported it.
Many younger filmmakers continued to admire him as an uncompromising artist who held to his vision in the face of business pressures and who was unjustly overlooked by a film establishment grown fat on special effects and feel-good movies.
In his prime, Mr. Altman was celebrated for his ground-breaking use of multilayer soundtracks. An Altman film might offer a babble of voices competing for attention in crowded, smoky scenes. It was a kind of improvisation that offered a fresh verisimilitude to tired, stagey Hollywood genres.
He was often referred to as a cult director, and it rankled him. “What is a cult?” Mr. Altman said. “It just means not enough people to make a minority.”
The storyline had to do with a group of oversexed, booze-soaked Army doctors in a front-line hospital, specifically a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. Fifteen directors had already turned the job down. But at 45, Mr. Altman signed on, and the movie, “MASH,” became his breakthrough.
Audiences particularly connected with the authority-bashing attitude of the film’s irreverent doctors, Hawkeye (Donald Sutherland) and Trapper John (Mr. Gould).
“The heroes are always on the side of decency and sanity; that’s why they’re contemptuous of the bureaucracy,” the critic Pauline Kael wrote in The New Yorker. “They are heroes because they are competent and sane and gallant, and in this insane situation their gallantry takes the form of scabrous comedy.”
The villains were not the Communist enemy but the marble-hearted military bureaucrats, personified by the pious Frank Burns (Robert Duvall) and the hypocritical Hot Lips Houlihan (Sally Kellerman).
The film was nominated for five Academy Awards, including one for best picture and one for Mr. Altman’s direction, and it won the Golden Palm, or Palme d’Or, the top award at the 1970 Cannes Film Festival, and the best picture of the year award of the National Society of Film Critics.
But it was denied the best-picture Oscar; that award went to “Patton.” Mr. Altman went on to receive four more Academy Award nominations for best director, and two more of producing two best picture nominees, “Nashville” and “Gosford Park.” The only Oscar he received, however, was an honorary one, in 2006.
Mr. Altman was angry that the lone Oscar given to “MASH” went to Ring Lardner Jr., who got sole screen credit for the script. Mr. Altman openly disparaged Mr. Lardner’s work, touching off one of his many feuds. Later, when Mr. Altman seemed unable to duplicate the mix of critical and box-office success that “MASH” had achieved, he grew almost disdainful of the film.
“ ‘MASH’ was a pretty good movie,” Mr. Altman said in an interview. “It wasn’t what 20th Century- Fox thought it was going to be. They almost, when they saw it, cut all the blood out. I fought with my life for that. The picture speaks for itself. It became popular because of the timing. Consequently, it’s considered important, but it’s no better or more important than any of the other films I’ve made.”