Saturday, May 8, 2010

Short Cuts (1993)

A masterful, kaleidoscopic vision of L.A. from Robert Altman, in the vein of Nashville. Like Nashville, this film completely justifies all the praise that is directed towards it; both films are perfect examples of Altman's ability to juggle storylines in such a way that the film is, in the end, a pastiche, but a very distinct and poignant one nonetheless. The stories reveal snapshots of the lives of several L.A. denizens over the course of a few days. To describe the particulars of the stories here would do them a disservice; the main joy of the film is the natural, human ways the tales play themselves out. The cast is among the best of any film I've ever seen, period, and they all turn in memorable work in their short screen time; Robert Downey, Jr., Tim Robbins, Anne Archer, Jack Lemmon, Julianne Moore, and Lily Tomlin are among the myriad of faces that create distinct, fully-fleshed characters seemingly out of thin air. Much of the film was improvised, which makes me credit much of the watchability of the long, ambitious film to the actors. The film resembles Magnolia in its location, running time, and broad outline, but that's all; the tone here is more ambivalent and detached than tragically bemused. The score, jazzy and loose, is terrifically appropriate, giving the film a leisurely vibe that allows the drama to come across very naturally and organically.

Highly Recommended. Altman was known for this type of film, but this and Nashville remain the crowning achievements of this interwoven, low-key style. I still prefer the Long Goodbye in terms of sheer personality and revisionism (it remains my favorite noir I've ever seen), but this and Nashville are the perfect examples of Altman's famed aesthetic.

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