Sunday, January 3, 2010

"Nobodies ever made a good movie"

It's only fitting that I begin with Robert Altman, given that "Four Inches of Dirty Water" is a reference to his great film, "The Player".  Maybe not the most clever reference, but a reference none the less.  And it just felt right, which is pretty true to how Altman functioned.

He once said "Nobodies ever made a good movie".  His explanation for this comment is vague, but then many things about him were.  He couldn't tell you why he chose the shot he chose.  He couldn't tell you why he'd cast who he cast.  Or maybe he just wouldn't.  What he could tell you is that it just felt right.  I've always thought watching an Altman film is very similar to listening to jazz.  It's not about where it's going, it's about how it gets there.  His films are alive.  The camera almost constantly glides around, trying to take it all in.  The soundtrack is busy.  He insists you pay attention.  Watch, listen for the little things.  But more importantly, feel them.  Jazz is all about vibe.

Altman's "jazz" mentality is further displayed in the manner with which he dealt with actors and writers. He had no time for egos (save for maybe his own).  He only hired actors that brought something to the table, and had little interest in directing them.  If they couldn't create a character on their own, what good were they?  And when it came to writers Altman made few friends, having once said, "the only reason I have a script is so I can remember all the characters names".  Miles Davis would set up a groove, maybe work in a solo, but what's the point of having Jimmy Cobb and John Coltrane if you're not going to use them?

Some viewed him as the ultimate collaborator.  Some as a lazy curmudgeon.  I happen to greatly admire him.  I also happen to think he's made a few good movies.


No comments:

Post a Comment