Tuesday, November 21, 2006


You've probably heard that Robert Altman died.

In his honor, the memorial service will feature three eulogists, all delivering their eulogies simultaneously.

One thing I admire about Altman is that even though he was an acclaimed auteur, he was an auteur who actually liked to work. A lot of directors, once they get famous, start getting so picky about projects that they let several years go between films, and wind up taking years to create a disappointing movie. Altman made a movie (sometimes two) every year; some of them were great, some of them were OK, some of them were terrible, but the upshot of it was that he wound up making more great/good movies than the directors who treat every project as the challenge of a lifetime. Moviemakers make movies; Altman didn't develop projects or shepherd properties through the production process -- he made movies. Lots of 'em.

Another thing I like about Altman is that, compared to the other directors who became famous in the '70s, he didn't seem to have the same kind of extravagance, either with budget (M*A*S*H isn't a favorite movie of mine, but it's impressive that it looks as good as it does as a low-budget movie shot entirely on the Fox backlot) or technique. He'd worked in episodic TV for years before he broke into features, and he sort of retained the lessons of episodic TV filmmaking: don't over-think things, don't take too long. When he does go for a really extravagant shot, it's sort of a joke, like the opening shot of The Player -- a parody of the way Hollywood movies will spend immense amounts of time and money on over-elaborate shots that nobody will notice, while neglecting the importance of a good story.

No comments: