43 Great Directors: Robert Altman

“Wisdom and love have nothing to do with one another. Wisdom is staying alive, survival. You’re wise if you don’t stick your finger in the light plug. Love – you’ll stick your finger in anything.”

What Got This Director Here?
: Nashville, mostly.

My Favorite Past Experience Was…: Nashville.

What Did I Watch: Fool for Love and Gosford Park.

Where Does He Fit: Fool For Love is one of the most oddball works in Altman’s canon, and it isn’t as well-liked as it should be. It owes a lot to Paris Texas, and a lot of it consists of needledrops while he goes in for the zoom or reaction shot, but the drama is appropriately low-key: just two people refusing to put up with one another while some bystanders watch the drama. Shephard’s original play is focused, but the film is wandering, and that inability to merge is what keeps things going under the pink lights of the motel. Please restore this, somebody!

Gosford Park, meanwhile, is the sort of delight that everyone can get behind: a mystery where the murder takes quite a while to happen, and really just an examination of the social classes. Despite the women generally destroying the men on the level of performance, it’s nice how the most critical character thematically in the form of Helen Mirren is also the one giving the best performance, suited as neatly as can be to the improvisations and looseness that defines Altman’s brand of phony naturalism. You can embrace the class commentary, but I think the real subtext is about the spirit of community theater.


Most Valuable Asset: The ensemble.
Most Excited For: Long Goodbye.
Did They Deserve a Spot?: Absolutely.

Coming Up Next: Inconsistent genre purveyor Ridley Scott.


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