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Thread: Robert Altman (1925-2006)

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2002

    Robert Altman (1925-2006)

    Robert Altman, the caustic and irreverent satirist behind "M*A*S*H," "Nashville" and "The Player" who made a career out of bucking Hollywood management and story conventions, died at a Los Angeles Hospital, his Sandcastle 5 Productions Company said Tuesday. He was 81.

    The director died Monday night, Joshua Astrachan, a producer at Altman's Sandcastle 5 Productions in New York City, told The Associated Press.

    The cause of death wasn't disclosed. A news release was expected later in the day, Astrachan said.

    A five-time Academy Award nominee for best director, most recently for 2001's "Gosford Park," he finally won a lifetime achievement Oscar in 2006.

    "No other filmmaker has gotten a better shake than I have," Altman said while accepting the award. "I'm very fortunate in my career. I've never had to direct a film I didn't choose or develop. My love for filmmaking has given me an entree to the world and to the human condition."

    Altman had one of the most distinctive styles among modern filmmakers. He often employed huge ensemble casts, encouraged improvisation and overlapping dialogue and filmed scenes in long tracking shots that would flit from character to character.

    Altman's passing is a huge loss to the world of cinema. He had maintained a consistently high level of accomplishment as a director and scriptwriter for almost 60 years.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Ottawa Canada
    As I said on JustaFied's thread, a giant is gone.

    This man's canon has so much for a viewer to mine.

    If anyone here hasn't seen NASHVILLE then watch it tonight and remember a true legend of the motion picture business.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Yes, quite a canon indeed. Thinking about thing I love about Altman is that his movies aren't easily quotable. They're not movies with the memorable punchlines or dialogue that you'll find with other directors. Maybe that's a credit to Altman's ability to let his actors improvise. Maybe it's that his relaxed approach lets the scene flow more naturally, more "lifelike'. I don't know exactly, but it is another reason why I enjoy Altman so much. His films aren't there to simply entertain the viewer; you as the viewer have to work a little bit, but it's certainly worth it.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    North Carolina

    A sad day for all who love cinema

    I was very surprised he finished Prairie Home Companion. He appeared so ill at the Academy Awards. Altman's use of the ensemble cast has never been equaled by another Hollywood director that I can recall. In addition to Gosford Park and The Player, two of my most favorite Altman films are The Long Goodbye and MASH.

    I once remember an actor saying he'd been in many films and had many parts far more involving, but he never had a better time on the set than when he was directed by Robert Altman.

    The era of the 'revolutionary' directors is coming to a close. Altman's death signals the signs of things yet to come for this ever aging group. (Arthur Hiller, Ken Russell, Arthur Penn, Sydney Pollack, Costa Gavras, John Schlesinger- d.2003, Paul Mazursky, Norman Jewison, et al.)
    Colige suspectos semper habitos

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Robert Altman on his pioneering methods; excerpted from Ellen Oumano's "Film Forum: 35 Top Filmmakers Discuss Their Craft" (1985).

    Jack Warner once said of me, "That fool has actors talking at the same time". I think I've always been interested in that kind of presentation. I don't believe I started using overlapping, multiple soundtracks because the technology was there. The egg, the idea to do that, came first.
    "Unmixing sound" is literally what using multiple tracks is. In other words, you are miked, and me, and there's a mike out the window getting street noises, and I put a mike on the clock or in the kitchen. We're not worrying about shadows and lighting for mike booms and having to move lights. This way I can let everybody go, and we can separate those tracks, and I can raise your voice or bring mine down or whatever I want to do. It's like doing music.

    Another reason for using a long lens or a zoom lens is so that the camera isn't sitting right up in your face when you're trying to act and all the actor can see are a bunch of guys or a bunch of lights. We'll set up the scene with the cameras a long distance away from the actors, especially when we use multiple cameras, and I'll have everybody performing the scene, and they don't know if the camera is on them, or whether they're in long shot or, in fact, close-up. That's why I have the actors come to the dailies all the time. Because they'll say "Hey, I didn't know even that I was in that shot. You were really close to my face." So they get the idea that when they're on, they don't have to worry where the camera is. They're on. And it kind of gets rid of "I'll save my best performance for the close-up and that way they'll use it in the editing".


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