Through a strange set of coincidences, I never saw "Nashville" until now. I can remember when it came out. It received a lot of praise from serious critics and was nominated for a bunch of Oscars, including Best Picture (it lost to "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"). But it was never embraced by the mainstream. "Jaws" was the big movie that year. Everyone went to see "Jaws," including nine-year-old me. But almost no one went to see "Nashville."
But over the years, it has taken on classic status. And I can see why. "Nashville" is so innovative that it's a bit challenging to watch. But if you give it the time and stay with it to the end, I think you'll be happy you did.
I would describe it as one of the first post-modern films. It has about 25 characters, each with his/her own story line. There is no major character in the traditional sense. No one storyline dominates. I'd say that 1970s America is the main character. In many ways, Altman was holding up a mirror to the America of his day and showing us ourselves. He takes a panoramic ethnographic viewpoint, if you will. He's describing a culture, not focusing in on specific individuals.
Initially, it's captivating. But after about an hour, the lack of a central storyline became a bit wearying to me. There's not that much drama. But something magical happens in the last 20 minutes or so. The threads all come together beautifully, with a violent act providing something of a crescendo.
When Altman pulls his camera slowly back in the last couple of minutes, encompassing more and more in his field of vision, "Nashville" soars. It becomes a poem about America, almost perfectly capturing the longing, the sadness mixed with giddiness that was 1970s America. The irresponsibility, the fixation on music and entertainment, the persistence, and 100 other things. "Nashville" captures the feel of the 70s so well that it's almost mystical. A major work of art that I would enjoy watching again and again.
First off, this film is somewhat overlong and a tad too meandering at times, and maybe just a bit pretentious, However, it carries a lot of influence (particular on the works of P.T. Anderson) and it is a rather incredible experience. This is an ambitious, sweeping epic look at America and the state of American life and culture on the cusp of the bicentennial filtered through the lens of around 24 characters who, despite having their own specific storylines, all interweave to form a narrative surrounding the effort to put on a concert rally for the state's presidential primary for a populist fringe candidate running on the Replacement party ticket. The film has an overall running time of 2 Hours, 40 minutes, with an hour of that time devoted to musical numbers (all songs written by the cast and some of the crew).
This is a broad mosaic of a film, but despite some of the heavy subject matter it is played out in Altman's loose, heavily improvised and mutilayered style. It's one of those movies where you can probably pick up more and more with each viewing, but is also a great sort of hang out film where, kinda like a crowded party, you can just sort of filter in and out of various conversations or moments and still pick up the gist. The film is rather successful at this for the msot part, though it took me a bit to really get inot it. Once I did though, things got really cooking, and I found this to be quite a film that says a lot without really saying or doing too much when you get right down to it.
I'm not going to list all of the 24/5 main actors, but I will say that most do a really good job. I wish they al lwere uniformly great, but hey there's so much going on here that the goods outweigh the bads. I think Lily Tomlin probably stuck out as the best for me though. I used to not pay her much mind, but she's really quite a wonderful actress. I knew she was good, but now I realize she's great.
You don't have to enjoy country, folk, or gospel to like this movie, but it obviously helps if you at least appreciate it. LIke I said, the film is overlong and rambling, but I was engaged for most of it. I think it works better as an experience more tha na proper film, but there's nothing wrong with that. This is a wonderful document that really captures the zeitgeist of the times, and is easily one of the best film of the 70s, which is really saying something given that the 70s was the best decade for cinema. I'm still not quite sure what to make of this movie, but as for right now, I'm quite impressed.
You should really give this one a look. It's a really well done and significant work of art.
Well, although this narrative hits its share of tropes, I don't know if this film is so much formulaic in structure, as much as it feels formulaic, almost lazily succumbing to the almost tired tone and flavor of other epic ensemble comedies of its nature, yet still not embracing that sort of color as it probably should. The film has the potential of being something like "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World", and is considered a comedy-drama, something that it is too tonally uneven to effectively be, breaking up lively, if not somewhat cheesily surreal black humor and satire with quarter-baked tensions over conflicts and characterizations which are themselves questionable. The film's storytelling is nothing if not overblown, except in its depths and subtlety, which stand as the most glaring reflections of the natural shortcomings of this actually thin story concept of little consequence which works so blasted hard to compensate for the limitations of its subject matter with excessive plot layers. Following 24 main characters with various stories of varying themes, this film tells way, way too many stories of limited consequence to keep up with, being terribly uneven in focus, due to its being so overdrawn with segments whose presence to begin with reflects a serious bloating. The film's runtime clocks in around 160 minutes, and, well, to be blunt, that is [u][b]way too blasted long[/u][/b], being achieved largely by the aforementioned excess in material, and partly by filler which ranges from overlong song performances, to mere meanderings which would be easier to embrace if they weren't kind of dull. Yes, this film is dull, at least at times, of which there are enough for you to settle in and focus on the limitations of the story concept, and the inconsistencies of its telling, until too much momentum is lost for the final product to achieve the particularly fulfilling state that it perhaps could have achieved. Nevertheless, the film entertains so much that it comes to the brink of rewarding, at least being fulfilling as a portrait on the Nashville music scene.
Now, with all of my joking about how this film's musical numbers better be lively if they're going to occupy some of the runtime, seeing as how this film isn't as flamboyant as it perhaps could have been, there are no song and dance routines to drive storytelling, but rather, prominent performances of the country and gospel tunes which define the Nashville music scene, and whose genuineness defines the taste of this musical. Sure, the tunes aren't particularly exciting, not unlike, well, Leonard Cohen's soundtrack for "McCabe & Mrs. Miller" (Wow, I underestimated how subdued Robert Altman can get), but they play a key role in bringing life to this film as an entertaining and faithful tribute to the capital of southern American music. Still, this film is mostly about, not so much the music, but the characters of Nashville, taking on a simply unreasonable amount of plot branches and never getting very heavy with any of them, until it comes out both thin and overblown, yet by no means colorless, for each layer of this pseudo-epic of an ensemble satire-drama is reasonably interesting, with memorable leads who are all well-portrayed. This cast isn't given much to do, but for all of its members to deliver as best they can is impressive, for just about everyone features his or her own distinguished charisma to sell the dynamicity of this overblown, yet thankfully not monotonous ensemble piece. The performers are at least worked with very well by Robert Altman, who, as director, takes a surprisingly subdued approach that gets a little bland when material starts to lapses, but graces the film with a consistent sophistication which helps in making it compelling enough to border on rewarding, and rarely dulls things down too much, due to the film's rarely losing material to draw upon. Joan Tewkesbury's script is exhaustingly overblown in structure, to the point of being uneven in tone, believability and focus, while never getting ambitious enough to transcend certain conventions, but it remains fairly sharp more often than not, drawing many a distinguished, memorable character for the performers to portray so charismatically, while delivering on plenty of witty humor and biting satire for Altman's direction to grace with subtlety. What is done right and done very well in this epic of an ambitious satirical comedy, and although the excess wears you down enough for the final product to fail at fulfilling its full potential, - no matter how limited - entertainment value keeps consistent enough to endear, even if it doesn't quite reward.
When the music finally died down, the film, with a rather formulaic feel, takes way too long to travel down a path which is inconsistent in tone and focus, yet still not overblown to the point of putting all that much meat on the bones of a somewhat inconsequential plot, whose color is still done enough justice by a solid soundtrack and cast, and clever direction and writing for Robert Altman's "Nashville" to stand at the brink of rewarding with its entertainment value and intelligence as a massive, if improvable tribute the music and other characteristics of the lively city of Nashville, Tennessee.
2.75/5 - Decent
Robert Altman's 'Nashville' is simply one of film's greatest achievements. Combining improvisation, drama, and comedy to forge Altman's best and most un- forgettable movie experience.
The rotating plot centers around the city of Nashville, TN. the country music capital of the world. A mysterious van campaigning for politician Hal Phillip Walker circulates the city spouting off campaign promises. The unseen Walker is trying to win candidacy for the U.S. Presidancy. He belongs to the newly formed "Replacement Party".
Of the many plot threads, my personal favorites were:
the tale of Barbra Jean (Ronee Blakely), a country queen who just suffered a mental break down. She is also idolized by a solider (Scott Glenn) who trots along like a loyal puppy.
Linnea Reese (Lilly Tomlin) the choral singer and mother of two deaf children, who shacks up with music sensation Tom (Keith Carridine), a womanizer.
Mr. Green (Keenan Wynn), a man who brings his niece, Marthe (Shelly Duvall), to care for his dying wife. She cares more about celebrities, (including Tom, who she also shacks up with), then her dying aunt. Green also rents a room out to a mysterious stranger (David Hayward).
And finally Haven Hamilton, (Henry Gibson), an egotistical, aging, S.O.B. of a country star.
All mentioned above do splendid work, especially Wynn, there are some heart-breaking scenes in the hospital, where his wife stays.
For the climactic assassination scene, Altman knows not to underscore the scene with music, but with crowds, movements, faces and cutting. Altman is a master he makes you know why in that scene alone.