My Mini-Robert Altman Festival

Robert Altman’s “Three Women” provided the inspiration for a play of the same name which premiered at the Riverside Theater in New York last week, the senior thesis of a graduate director student at Columbia University. We had tickets door the show (our daughter was involved in the production) and decided to see the film first.

Starring Sissy Spacek and Shelly Duvall, the film is a bizarre tale (apparently based on a dream Altman had one night) of a young girl who gets a job at a sanitarium in the California desert and is assigned for training purposes to another young woman who has

been there a little longer.b

The newcomer is clueless in virtually every regard, and her mentor is equally clueless, largely as to how to relate to others. But the new girl idolizes the other woman, they move in together, and truly inexplicable things follow. It’s sort of the opposite of a TV reality show. As one critic said, you don’t have to understand, or even try to understand) the film to like it. And like it I did.

Enough that I thought I should look at a couple of other Altman films, which I chose at random.

The first was Altman’s version of Sam Shepard’s “Fool for Love”, the story of two self-destructive lovers in a small settlement in the west, who turn out to be half-siblings. A well received play, the film version, in which Shepard himself stars, was not as well appreciated. But, particularly as the film moved along, we enjoyed it and I would recommend it as being worth a look.

The second was Richard Gere in “Dr. T and the Women”, a worthless film if there ever was one. Here, the critics and I agree.

I think I will not give up on Altman yet. At least not until I see “Nashville”.

We did see another movie of some interest – a Russian film called “Russian Ark”, which holds the distinction of being the only feature length film shot in one scene. Filmed entirely in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, there is a western European visitor to Russia who tours the museum and much of Russian history at the same time, meeting art critics and historical figures. Perhaps the story is that St. Petersburg is Europe and not Russia, and that Russia and Europe are quite different from each other and cannot be melded together. Perhaps not.

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