Wednesday, June 2, 2010
NASHVILLE A Movie A Day Day 3
This is a movie that I saw once in theaters and remembered as being odd and somewhat appealing. After watching it today, i wonder what I was thinking. I know that Altman was a unique artist and had a meandering style, but this movie goes on for nearly three hours and there is not a character you would want to spend ten minutes with. This film is mean spirited and unpleasant. Frankly it has no narrative drive and the only thing that it has going for it is the music.
Ironically, the music is showcased in a manner designed to make you dislike the people who make the music. They are either philandering cretins, lost souls, indifferent businessmen or fakes. The songs are often accurate versions of themes that might be used in a Country Western Concert or bar, but they lack much passion and the way they are filmed seems to suggest that we should pity people that enjoy this type of stuff. I know I listened to "I'm Easy" on the radio a lot in 1975. It was a pretty song that was performed in a plain but honest voice. The scene it appears in in the film is one of the few that reflects any emotion that real human beings might feel. All the women listening are convinced that it was written about them, but after the following scenes you realize it was not about them but to get them. It is a seduction song that works because it sound sincere but it is used in a manipulative way by the character.
There are some other great songs in the film, that are undermined by contrasting scenes and uncommitted performances. Ronee Blakey is an exception in one segment where there appears to be some real life in the audience, musicians and singer. This a film that begs for you to enjoy the soundtrack but skip the movie. Unfortunately, if you have seen the film, the grime and sadness will haunt your appreciation of the tunes.
Obviously this is a slice of life picture, and the brief insights that we have into characters is simply a portrait drawn at that moment. The problem I had was that there were really no pleasant slices of life to go with the bitter view of America that this film wants us to have. Geraldine Chaplin's BBC reporter is supposed to allow us to see that this is a distorted look at our nation, but she is so stupid and unpleasant that we simply want to get out of the scene she is in and move onto whatever is next. Irony and distance will be damned because we can't stand her.
This was one of the films I saw because reviews were so positive and later on the Academy Awards were generous in nominating the movie for five Oscars. Looking at it thirty-five years later makes me mad at myself for not standing up and pointing out that the film makers are naked, there is no beautiful suit and we are all too scared to say so. I did enjoy my brief sighting of two future favorites, who had very small parts in the picture. Jeff Goldblum is doing magic for no reason whatsoever, I don't think he has a line, and if he did, it was certainly not memorable. Scott Glenn appears as a soldier who is in the background of a lot of scenes and he has a part that is ultimately important to the spiteful view of our country. He is accousted at the airport while in uniform, and asked if he killed anyone this week. Later he is unable to prevent a tragedy and walks away, like America did in the Vietnam war. I case you can't guess this is not a fond memory of 1975. Thank God that we had JAWS that summer for us to look back on with admiration.