Thursday, 28 March 2013

Nashville (1975)

Robert Altman's name suddenly was on everybody's tongue after he directed MASH in 1970. Since that point in time, he had taken to making a few films which include the clever, Brewster McCloud, the genius McCabe & Mrs. Miller, the underrated Images, the beloved The Long Goodbye, the under-appreciated Thieves Like Us and finally the also heavily-loved, California Split. Although he was not a guarantee of a film that would do great in the box office, or a film everyone liked, he would certainly give you an interesting film. That said, a script came around to Robert Altman. The screenplay had something to do with melodrama in Nashville, needless to say, Altman thought it was awful. So, he hired some friends of his to go down to Nashville and keep a diary of everything that happened to them. When Altman's friends returned from their voyage, he read through their diary, and that's where the film came from.

Altman is considered to have his greatest talent in the field of casting. In an interview with him, he explained that everything was perfect with the actors. He explained how nobody gave him a hard time. He also expressed his admiration towards Karen Black for her excellent portray of Connie White. He adored her understanding of her character and how she wrote her own songs for her character.

It was said that Altman filmed enough footage to make Nashville a four hour long film. However, he later stated that such statements were false. In fact, almost everything they shot winded up into the film.

At the Academy Awards, Nashville received several nominations. They include: Best Original Song (won), Best Picture (lost), Two Bet Supporting Actress Nominations (lost) and Best Director (lost).

Where does Nashville stand today? Well, shortly after it's release Nashville faded slightly. It was no longer the popular film it had been upon original release in 1975. Then, I'm not sure what started it exactly, but something brought Nashville back up to the top where it became considered one of the greatest films ever made. It currently holds a 7.6 on IMDb and a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes. I, personally, would not consider it to be among the greatest films of all time. But one thing is for sure, Nashville contains a brilliant soundtrack that you will never forget.

Of the course of five days, we are introduced to 24 unique character who all have on thing in common. They're in Nashville. The first character is an elderly country icon, a middle-aged woman swarmed by adoring fans, a self obsessed womanizing rock-star, a middle aged woman trying to cope with her two deaf children, a sadly untalented waitress with high hopes, and no talent to get her there, a young woman who also dreams of being a country star, a female nightclub owner, a young groupie, a very energetic BBC documentary filmmaker, and a political campaign manager.

There is more than great music in the air as we watch Nashville. We slowly get to learn about these people and the the great city of Nashville.

As I mentioned above, what makes Nashville a beautiful film is the marvelous score. My personal favourite song from the film is "It Don't Worry Me" sung by Barbara Harris. This song does not appear in the film until the end when everything has escalated into an inferno of tragedy. Yet as she sings, she demonstrates hope in her voice. Yes, the song is repetitive and it lingers on for about four minutes, but that never stops it from being moving. Another great song in Nashville is "I'm Easy" sung by Keith Carradine. This sung did win an Oscar, even thought it is not as good as "It Don't Worry Me". The song is simple, but nice. What I admire about the song is that it has a unique context for me while watching the film than listening to it by itself. Nashville comes together in a blaze of beauty, but most all - great music.

When Nashville is not sucking us in with great music, it is either sucking us in or losing us with acting. Some actors, did a marvelous job... others... not so much. For example, Ronee Blakley is superb as Barbara Jean, the country music star adored by fans, but is struggling to keep herself upward. Her faces tells a million words that her voice never could. Henry Gibson delivered a very realistic performance for me. It seemed to me as if he had been a kind of Bob Dylan, who we used to love because of his music and now we love because of the music they used to make. A very accurate kind of performance. I felt that Lily Tomlin was also delivered a lot of power in her performance as a mother of two deaf children. She is a character who never sings, and she doesn't need to express herself. Now, who's ready to label the stale performances in Nashville? Gewn Welles who plays Sueleen Gay is much like her character: talent-less. Perhaps it's her acting or perhaps it's the writing, or maybe both, but I didn't believe how oblivious and relentless we were supposed to take this woman for being. Shelley Duvall is a waste of film. Her character adds nothing, and her performance is pointless as well. I see no reason to have had her character in the film since it contribute to nothing but a longer run time. Finally, there may be many who disagree with me, but I thought Geraldine Chaplin to be a similar kind of character. Her acting was very average, yet Altman missed a big benefit we could have had. She comes from a separate country to document the events in Nashville. She was much like Altman's friends who kept a five day diary of what happened to them in Nashville. Much like the audience coming into a film, she has no idea what she's in for. I think she should have been more of a protagonist since we could identify with her. However, all in all, when you make an ensemble drama, you're going to get a lot of great acting, and a lot of stale acting. Nashville is no exception.

We manage to witness a far bit of moments in Nashville that we don't quite need. They don't seem to benefit the film. As I mentioned earlier, Shelley Duvall's character was useless. In including these scenes, we dwell in a fair bit of melodrama, which makes this seem like a bit of a soap opera. Over dramatic does not suit Nashville well.

Overall, Nashville is a fair bit overrated. Yet, it is still a very moving film with some great performances  and some mediocre ones. It dwells in melodrama for a slightly extended amount of time, but we still receive lots of enjoyment from the film.

Directed by Robert Altman
Starring: Henry Gibson, Ronee Blakely and Karen Black
7.5/10 (B+)

1. 3 Women
2. The Player
3. Nashville
4. Brewster McCloud
5. Gosford Park
6. Cookie's Fortune
7. Fool For Love

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