3 Women (1977)
Robert Altman's Three Women takes a surreal, improvisational and rather eerie look at the lives of three women in a western desert town. The plot centers around the youngest of the women, Pinky (Sissy Spacek), an eccentric, withdrawn woman trying to begin a new life. She finds work as an attendant at a hot springs spa catering to the elderly and infirm. There she befriends her co-worker Millie (Shelley Duvall), an equally strange but more outgoing woman; the two bond, and are soon sharing an apartment. Pinky becomes increasingly dependent on Millie, eventually adopting aspects of her personality and appearance. This obsessive attachment is threatened when Pinky discovers Millie with a man -- Edgar (Robert Fortier), the macho, faux-cowboy husband of local artist Willie (Janice Rule), the last of the title's three women. Pinky's subsequent, desperate actions precipitate the film's enigmatic conclusion, involving an unexpected series of confrontations and role reversals amongst the three women. This story tends to take a backseat to the elliptical, spooky imagery, particularly the desert landscapes, and the quirky performances -- not surprising, given that the film was reportedly shot without a full screenplay and inspired by Altman's own dreams. ~ Judd Blaise, Rovi … More
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Critic Reviews for 3 Women
Like a dream, it is most mysterious and allusive when it appears to be most precise and direct, when its images are of the recognizable world unretouched (as happens in the film from time to time) by camera filters or lab technicians.
I have seen it many times, been through it twice in shot-by-shot analysis, and yet it always seems to be happening as I watch it. Recurring dreams are like that.
A spectacular artistic success.
Robert Altman's would-be American art film (1977) is murky, snide, and sloppy.
Insinuates itself into your skull, and earwig-like proceeds to consume all you thought you knew of ontological security
3 Women is definitely a slow burn of a movie, but it's also amazing how well it taps into and visualizes the subconscious. Nothing is spelled out by Altman, who wants the audience to interpret the film's meaning for themselves.
Absorbing until it crashes in a tiresome manner trying to be too inexplicably symbolic.
The first half...is some of Altman's best stuff. The second half downgrades into rather pretentious and dithering malarkey
Either a maddening essay in pointlessness, or a deeply involving work that leaves the viewer unnerved and off-balance. Which response occurs depends entirely on the viewer.
Fascinating, elliptical and enigmantic ... authentic Altman. Altman.
Drawing similarities to the central relationship in Persona, Altman's impressionist work is difficult but, in its own way, sort of perfect.
[Altman] pushed even harder against the envelope and in the process created a highly unusual and wholly original picture.
3 Women is a daring piece of cinema that glides along the edge of weirdness and somehow manages not to fall off.
The end result is a film far more reminiscent of Polanski than Altman and stands as one of his most underseen but most compelling works.
3 Women is an intriguing film by Robert Altman that resides in the netherworld between dreaming and waking.
Audience Reviews for 3 Women
2nd time watching this, still can't claim to understand the ending, but wow, such a good movie. Really enjoyed the relationship between these two women. The third in the end is too seldom in the movie to have any real impact.
I also lean towards the theory that Millie and Pinkie are the same person, but hard to say.
Wide-eyed Pinky (Sissy Spacek) latches onto delusional Millie (Shelly Duval) until an accident causes a radical personality shift. Fascinating, subtly unnerving psychological mystery that provides a bridge between PERSONA (1966) and LOST HIGHWAY (1997).More
'She tries not to shatter, kaleidoscope style
Personality changes behind her red smile
Every new problem brings a stranger inside
Heplessly forcing one more new disguise.'
When "3 Women" came out, I was 11. I have no memory of its release. Even at that young age, I paid careful attention to film. If "3 Women" had been released in the suburbs of New York City, where I lived, I would have known. I also would have known about it if it had received Oscar nominations. It received none.
I became aware of "3 Women" in my 20s. When I was about 25 and in graduate school, I rented it. (Probably on videotape!) I remember thinking that it was one of the weirdest films I had ever seen. Not weird in an engaging way -- weird in an off-putting way. None of it made any sense to me. I would have given it a 2 or 3 rating.
But I never forgot the film. Something about it stayed with me. Many times I felt the desire to try watching it again. Would it make more sense to me now? Would the older me see it in a new way? Would I ever figure out what Robert Altman was trying to do with it? Something kept drawing me back. It was a code I wanted to crack.
After about five years on my Netflix queue, it finally came to the top. Twenty years later, I finally got my chance to view this enigma again. I'm happy to report that it was worth the wait. The older me did see it differently. I don't think it's a great film, but I certainly understand and appreciate what Altman was trying to do. Even with its flaws, which are considerable, I now feel that "3 Women" deserves its status as a classic of the American avant-garde. Not all the avant-garde classics are European! (But most are.)
More details on plot later....
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