Sunday, September 27, 2009

MOVIE REVIEW: "Nashville"

This is it...One of my top-five, all-time favorite films.  Once again in the spotlight after the passing of Henry Gibson, my friends and I were inspired to have a screening at the house last night.

A masterpiece.... The most exuberant example of Robert Altman's characterisitic is a party with an edge, fun and challenging, heartbreaking, topical (prophetic, even) and wholly exhilarating......From the opening title sequence you feel that you have really seen something, been part of something unique....the movie is a panorama, a time capsule of the '70s at the height of Bicentennial fervor, a populist satire, a glimpse into the lives of musicians, politicians, publicists, lawyers, hangers-on, dubious journalists, southern Blacks, dreamers, assassins, eccentrics, and families.  In seemingly haphazard fashion, Altman observes a controlled chaos, with emphasis on controlled.  There is a casualness to the recorded dialog, the movement of characters from scene to scene, that can baffle the casual moviegoer, but which rewards the observant viewer (and listener) with a rich, rhythmic, colorful and provocative experience. 

Altman has said that he viewed directing as an activity more akin to painting than to directing traffic. His palette is a subtle red-white-and-blue motif at first, becoming darker as the film's themes take hold and the plot lines grab us and carry us through to a shattering and multi-leveled conclusion. The music, with most of the songs written by the actors themselves, contributes to an atmosphere and  mood that soars, makes us think, makes us weep, even makes us laugh.  No movie since has ever looked...or sounded...the same, and produced the same mix of emotions...This is a true original.
The actors are uniformly excellent, playing against type.....Among them Henry Gibson as the pompous country Star Haven Hamilton, Ronee Blakely as the superstar Barbara Jean, who comes to life in song and succumbs to madness and the assassin's attention; Barbara Harris, as a free-spirited wife of a redneck, who has an unlikely dream of becoming a singer or star, and gets her chance in a shocking and unlikely way, in a foreshadowing of the Amercian Idol mentality....Lily Tomlin as Linnea, the lonely wife of attorney Ned Beatty, raising two deaf children as she is being seduced by the womanizing rock star Tom, played with intensity by Keith Carradine.  Every time I have seen this movie with others, there is total silence during Carradine's number "I'm Easy", which won the film's only Oscar.
In 1975 when I first saw "Nashville" as a college freshman, my buddies and I discussed the movie all night....especially the final 15 minutes. 
Movie-lovers...Do yourself a favor...check this one out....On a good wide-screen TV, with good sound... And RUN to any theater that ever revives it....
What do you all think?


  1. My favorite movie. I had the pleasure of wathcing this with my girlfriend and her dad one Thanksgiving. It astounded me. The songs are catchy, and it is just as funny as it is haunting. Love it.

  2. Walter, I appreciate your comments on "Nashville"...Sorry for the delay here, as I just figured out how to respond to a posted message. Hope we continue to enjoy each others' writing... Tom