Quintet (1979) - Rotten Tomatoes

Quintet (1979)





Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Perhaps the least seen but most talked about film of Robert Altman's career, Quintet is a somber science fiction tale that takes place after a nuclear holocaust has thrown the world into another Ice Age. A man named Essex (Paul Newman) and his pregnant wife Vivia (Brigitte Fossey) are wandering the desolate, frozen landscape and attempting to find Essex's brother, Francha (Tom Hill). They finally locate him in a frozen city, occupied by a number of apocalyptic survivors who who pass their time playing a mysterious game called "Quintet." No one is able to explain just how it is played, but Grigor (Fernando Rey) appears to act as the referee, and the stakes of the game are unusually high - losing means being thrown out into the snow and devoured by Rottweilers. Francha is soon killed, not as a casualty of Quintet per se, but for playing an assassination game on the side to relieve his own ennui. As 'collateral damage,', Vivia and the rest of Francha's family are soon extinguished as well. Essex is not happy with the way they've been rubbed out, but as he attempts to seek revenge, he is only drawn deeper into the lethal competition of Quintet. While this picture received negative reviews on its initial release, in retrospect it is worth noting that the photography (by Jean Boffety) and production design (by Leon Ericksen) are beautiful and striking, and that the film boasts one of Altman's strongest international casts, including Vittorio Gassman, Nina Van Pallandt, and Bibi Andersson, as befits its European-art-movie ambiance; the influence of the equally opaque, allegorical, game-playing Last Year at Marienbad (1961) is especially strong. ~ Mark Deming, Rovimore
Rating: R
Genre: Drama, Mystery & Suspense, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By:
Written By: Lionel Chetwynd, Robert Altman, Frank Barhydt, Patricia Resnick
In Theaters:
On DVD: Apr 25, 2006


Vittorio Gassman
as Saint Christopher
David Langton
as Goldstar
Thomas Hill
as Francha
Monique Mercure
as Redstone's Mate
Max Fleck
as Wood Supplier
Françoise Berd
as Charity house woman
Tom Hill
as Francha
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Quintet

Critic Reviews for Quintet

All Critics (10) | Top Critics (3)

All great directors must be arrogant to the extent that they will follow their dreams through to the bitter, sometimes banal end. This time Mr. Altman's faith in himself has led him over the brink.

Full Review… | May 9, 2005
New York Times
Top Critic

The narrative is convoluted, the characters thin, and the pace appropriately glacial; burdened with opaque metaphysical dialogue and bizarre, medieval-looking costumes.

Full Review… | December 16, 2001
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

The pace of Quintet is as glacial as its setting. A career nadir for Paul Newman.

November 24, 2006

A baffling film whose ultimately hollow idiosyncrasies speak to Altman's self-destructive streak more than they constitute an applicable allegory

Full Review… | April 27, 2006
Film Freak Central

a painful attempt at depth that comes across as nothing more than utter pretentiousness

Full Review… | April 19, 2006

Audience Reviews for Quintet


It's hard for me to call Robert Altman's "Quintet" an out right terrible film because everything we see on screen seems entirely deliberate. From the slow pace, to the detailed production design, to the multiracial casting, to the etherial score, to the philosophical musings- "Quintet" seems extremely self assured. Unfortunately, I found none of it interesting. For me, this was slow nonsense that added up to about nothing. I feel like Altman is trying to say something about life and death with this apocalyptic tale (and that deadly board game) but it all comes across so muddled. It doesn't help that Paul Newman's performance is the definition of 'wooden.'

"Quintet" sufficiently ended Altman's legendary 1970s run and ousted him from Hollywood where he spent the 1980s adapting little seen plays into independent films before reemerging in the 1990s with "The Player."

Side note: If you like the film "The Road" (which I hated), you will probably be much more forgiving to "Quintet."

Steven Carrier

Super Reviewer


This had to be one of the most boring Sci-Fi movies ever - and it had Paul Newman in it.

Sean Gillespie

Super Reviewer

A post-apocalyptic science fiction movie plot as disconsolate as the snowy backdrop in which it was filmed. Frigid characters, stilted acting, and slow pacing.

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