Wednesday, September 12, 2012

McCabe & Mrs. Miller - Altman (1971)

Was a little surprised not to see this anywhere on the Sight & Sound poll, but I guess Nashville (1975, S&S #73) sucks up all the voting. Either that or Popeye (1980)!

Again... this fell below #250/#100, so I've inserted the appropriate rankings below - as I have with the missing ones in previous posts.


McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)
McCabe & Mrs. Miller
dir. Robert Altman. 1971, USA.
Sight & Sound 2012: Critics' #323 / Directors' #322
Roger Ebert's Great Movies
DVD from Amazon [TCM multi-film]
Watch via Amazon Instant / iTunes



McCabe & Mrs. Miller trailer (1971)

This being the American frontier, we get an opportunity to see beautiful movie stars down in the muck and grime of some Pac-NW undeveloped mining town, but I was really pleased to see the names Duvall (she), Devane and Carradine (and Leo. Cohen!). After the introductions, lots of dense but subdued conversations in dimly-lit interiors lulled me into a cozy dream. I think I might have actually nodded off a little bit during the early scenes.

McCabe: I got poetry in me!

McCabe's a lone gambler maybe gunman - plays poker, not euchre with some partner. He dismissively turns away other interested parties. But when Mrs. Miller (two consecutive brothel madams) emphatically explains his rank incompetence at running a decent whorehouse, he hilariously has no good comeback. He's no better at math than at telling his terrible frog jokes... nice fur coat though! One of the hypotheses speculated about is that the girls might turn to religion out of boredom. And religion in the town of Presbyterian Church does conspire to threaten him, just not exactly as expected though.


McCabe and Mrs Miller
Kind of like an inverted Bonnie & Clyde (1967), with Beatty here as the sidekick - behind the scenes at least. And in this case, the degenerate gambler/whore turn to 'legitimate' business - rather than two 'upstanding' citizens turning to crime. The company men are so clean and professional, which only makes them that much more menacing (but apparently not to McCabe). As usual, Mrs. Miller sees the situation with the clearer eye, while he plays close-to-the-vest and bluffs away. Until the cards run out...

The end brings a crescendo of violence, new exotic locations, excessive 'special' effects, a steampunk fire brigade, and the new ambiguity. What'd I see? Some Tree of Life, a bit of The Shining, maybe even a little Mulholland Dr.... Do we know for sure? Not me.

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