Quintet (1979)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Quintet Photos

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, Rovi
Drama , Mystery & Suspense , Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:


Paul Newman
as Essex
Vittorio Gassman
as Saint Christopher
Bibi Andersson
as Ambrosia
Fernando Rey
as Grigor
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

Critic Reviews for Quintet

All Critics (8) | Top Critics (2)

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | June 23, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

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 8, 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

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

April 19, 2006

Audience Reviews for Quintet

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.

r l
r l

Life can only be fair when you have to kill for it In the future the world is completely covered in ice. People spend their time looking for food and playing a board game called quintet. Some societies play the game with humans where the winners live and the losers die. Essex's friends and family are killed by such a society and he is coaxed into participating in the game of life and death. "He has no ethics nor brains." Robert Altman, director of Popeye (1980), A Perfect Couple, Thieves like Us, The Long Goodbye, MASH (1970) and Countdown, delivers Quintet. The storyline for this picture was very boring and reminded me of a slower paced Tron mixed with The Thing. The cast delivers fairly mediocre performances and includes Paul Newman, Fernando Rey, Vittorio Gassman, and Bibi Andersson. "I almost forgot what seal meat tastes like." We have been watching numerous old school Paul Newman pictures lately and decided to give this a shot based on its interesting premise. Unfortunately, this film was bland and slow. I thought once the game started it would pick up, but as previously mentioned, it never does. This is one of the worst Paul Newman pictures I have ever seen and I recommend skipping it. "You play for the thrill of it." Grade: D-

Kevin Robbins
Kevin Robbins

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

Sean Gillespie
Sean Gillespie

Super Reviewer

Discussion Forum

Discuss Quintet on our Movie forum!

News & Features