McCabe and Mrs Miller (1971) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
The synopsis at Rotten Tomatoes:
They get some fresh hookers in from Washington, the hooker capital of the nation, and go into business. But look out, the mining company wants to come in and buy up Beatty's property, and you don't screw with the miners. It's buy or die, Warren. That's the essence of the story and, being an Altman film, it's obviously not going to end happily. There are some good parts to this movie, but as far as I'm concerned, McCabe and Mrs. Miller should never take a place in the hall of fame for Westerns or whorehouse movies.
| I agree with Mr Hicks to a
great extent. This film is greatly
overrated, although I have ambivalent feelings about it, because it is
so effective on so many levels. There are several moments that create a
genuinely visceral impact.
The mood of loneliness pervades the atmosphere, powerfully abetted by
the plaintive Leonard Cohen score which provides the only sound track
except for the naturalistic overlapping dialogue. The dialogue is
filled with irrelevant background chatter, as it real life. The old
west is probably pictured more authentically here than in 99% of
movies. It's rainy and cold and miserable and diseased. The people are
ignorant and toothless, and drunk as often as possible. They can
neither read nor count. There are no women, and there is no pleasant
way to pass the non-working hours. The naive and friendly people are
considered weak, and are usually shot by the ruthless, the violent, or
the just plain crazy. The buildings are ready to fall down at the
first sign of a harsh circumstance. There is no law to speak of. Women
whose husbands die end up with no choice but prostitution. You get the
picture. It works. When the film ended, I was overwhelmed with
sadness. If a film were nothing more than mood, atmosphere,
characterization, and the search for truth, then I would agree with Roger Ebert's
But for most people, a film does need to have more. It has to develop, to move forward at a certain minimal pace. Mr Hicks hits the nail on the head when he suggests that this two hour movie has about ten minutes of plot. Everything that happens in the film could have been covered in the opening credits, if they cut the song. Individual scenes seem to go on interminably and they often seem pointless. If this film's plot were driving on the highway to heaven, it would be arrested for failing to reach the minimum speed.
I have talked before about the inherent contradiction
in nihilist movies. If a film espouses the philosophy that the world is utterly meaningless, then the film
must either be meaningless or wrong, neither one a good
option. Revisionist movies have some of the same liabilities. If a
filmmaker is trying to show that the real Old West was a miserable
place in which nothing ever happened to break the monotony - well,
either he makes a boring, miserable movie, or he disproves his own
point. Neither option is very appealing. Altman chooses to stay consistent
and make his point.
Almost everything you see on screen proves that the Old West was
boring, slow, and ugly. Point made, point taken, but not learned
If you want to see an entertaining revisionist western, try Unforgiven.
Note: Roger Ebert considers this a masterpiece, and it is in many ways, so you should therefore read his article (linked below) to achieve a balanced perspective.
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