Wednesday, August 2, 2017

McCabe & Mrs. Miller

McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)
Dir: Robert Altman
Staring Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, René Auberjonois, Shelley Duvall, Keith Carradine

McCabe (Beatty) arrives at the town of Presbyterian Church with a plan to get rich by opening a brothel. After teaming up with Mrs. Miller (Christie), he becomes successful and causes the town to grow, only to run afoul of some ruthless businessmen that want a piece of the town.

McCabe and Mrs. Miller is Robert Altman's "anti-western". Which makes sense, in the ways that it takes familiar tropes and twists things up, subverting them. It's the story of a town, and speciffically two people, John MacCabe and Constance Miller, two people that are drawn together and have success, but are ultimately unable to overcome their demons, (MacCabe's pride, Constance's addiction to opium).

One of the best things about the movie is the combination of the cinematography (by Vilmos Zsigmond) and sound design. The camerawork in the saloon scenes paired with Altman's technique of having multiple tracks of dialogue layered on top of each other. This gives the film an immersive feel, making you feel like you are actually there. The town actually feels alive, and as the film progresses you get to witness the location grow from a church and a couple of shacks to an actual town.

The most interesting thing is how different McCabe is than other western heroes. He's all bluster, and the only reason he survives as long as he does during the final confrontation with the bounty hunters is due to his cowardliness. Sneaking around, hiding, and striking from behind is the only thing he can do, since he would of been outmatched by just one of the bounty hunters, let alone three. He's also the cause of his own downfall, with his greed and pride causing the businessman from the mining company to put the bounty on him, and his pride also keeps him in the town after his attempts to make things better with the businessmen falls through.

This is an interesting film, and one that is definitely worth checking out. But at the same time if you don't like Robert Altman's filming style, this isn't going to change your mind about him.

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