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A documentary on the chaotic production of Werner Herzog's epic Fitzcarraldo (1982), showing how the film managed to get made despite problems that would have floored a less obsessively ... See full summary »
This documentary, which was undertaken soon after James Dean's death, looks at Dean's life through the use of still photographs with narration, and interviews with many of the people ... See full summary »
The life of Robert Altman over the course of his career as a filmmaker is told in roughly chronological order. It is presented largely through archival footage, including of his interviews and of his and his longtime wife Kathryn Reed's home movies. It includes his rocky start in Hollywood as an aspiring screenwriter, which instead led to him working as a general filmmaker for an industrial film company. This work led to directing assignments for a number of television series back in Hollywood, where he butted heads with a number of studio executives and producers who did not appreciate his style of filmmaking in his desire to insert a sense a realism in whatever the project, that realism which includes hanging story-lines and overlapping dialogue, often in multiple equally important conversations in a single setting which forces the viewer to decide which conversation he/she wants to focus. This situation often led to him trying to achieve what he wanted either in not telling or ...Written by
I equate films with sand castles. You get a bunch of mates and you go down and you say I"m going to build this great sand castle and you build it. Then, the tide comes in and twenty minutes its just smooth sand. And that structure you made is in everybodies' memory and that's it.
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No hippies were harmed in the making of this movie. See more »
The biggest value of Ron Mann's documentary "Altman" is the compilation of Robert Altman's interviews, home movies, unreleased shorts and testimonies by family members and colleagues. All that material was unified by close-ups of several actors who define what the adjective "Altmanesque" means, but a few important ones were left out, people as Altmanesque as can be, as Shelley Duvall, Paul Dooley, Carol Burnett or René Auberjonois. In general, Altman's film work was somehow standardized in this documentary, as if all had the same significance and weight. As an effect of leveling the value and quality of his movies, what we have is a promenade through a life and peculiar oeuvre, that did find obstacles, as it is stated, but with little curiosity for the reasons and motives, and the conceptual and ideological genesis behind Altman and his cinema. When Mann covers Altman's years at Fox, he only gives «3 Women», the peak of that period, a few reflections about acting illustrated by photographs of the shooting and Duvall, Sissy Spacek and Janice Rule (the tree women of the title). Any unsuspecting fellow will never know that this is one of Altman's masterpieces, as such recognized by anyone who knows a little about films. And let's not mention the approach to «Nashville», which is almost reduced to a corollary of a testimony by Richard Nixon about folk music. From the vantage point given by the time that has passed since the releases of «HealtH» (which didn't even have a proper release), «Quintet» and «Popeye», neither does Mann question or evaluate what was written and said about them. He does quote Altman telling a story about «Quintet»: in a meeting at Fox Grace of Monaco questioned Alan Ladd Jr. for letting "that Altman person" put her friend Paul Newman in that "dreadful film". Ladd told her to shut up and quit Fox. Today «Quintet» is seen as an apocalyptic science- fiction dreamscape that completes Altman's surrealist trilogy, after «Images» and «3 Women». Robin Williams died without understanding that in «Popeye» he had given one of his best film performances. Neither Mann seems to understand the film and, in return, concedes valuable time of the documentary to a clip of an unmentionable television film critic who could only mutter nonsense about Altman's vision of E.C. Segar's universe the morning after the film premiere. It must be added too that the appreciation of «Popeye» has improved with the years. As Mann lightly approaches other interesting works, as Altman's theater adaptations («Fool for Love», «Streamers», «Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean», «Beyond Therapy», all underrated), the biopic «Vincent & Théo», the drama «Kansas City» that follows the structure (if any) of a jazz session, or the comedies he made after his heart transplant (the delirious «Dr. T and the Women» and the moving «Cookie's Fortune», for example), Mann spends more than enough time in «Secret Honor», the television series «Tanner» or »Brewster McCloud» which Altman called his favorite film in an interview in "Film Comment" when he was about to make «Short Cuts». And so goes this work, in which, yes, we can perceive the admiration for the filmmaker, but that in general, as we have stated, misses in its reflection and analysis of the work of one of the greatest American filmmakers of the twentieth century and part of this one (above a few overrated defenders of the status quo), who talked about and filmed his fellow people, his country, its history, its cities, towns, politics, cultures, vices and virtues. And there lies his greatness.
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