The wind howls through the rough terrain of the Pacific Northwest. A lone horseman, bundled against the harsh weather, makes his way along a crude dirt path. Leonard Cohen's haunting ballad, "The Stranger," picks up where the winds leave off, and the opening credits crawl along the bottom of the screen from right to left, as if the horseman, traveling left to right, is riding right past them.
Just describing this brilliant title sequence from Robert Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller has given me the goosebumps!
I love everything about this movie, but I think what first impressed me was its perfectly realized setting. The entire town of Presbyterian Church as it appears in the movie was built from scratch by the film crew, with the Canadian wilderness standing in for the untamed Pacific Northwest. The result is a western town so authentic, it takes on a life of its own. We get to know every nook and cranny of Presbyterian Church, from the low-hanging bridge leading to Sheehan’s (Rene Auberjonois) bar, to the church itself, a building that’s not quite finished, but which the good Reverend, Mr. Elliot (Corey Fischer), is diligently constructing piece by piece. Never before had I felt such a oneness with a film’s setting as I did in McCabe & Mrs. Miller. This town has a spirit all its own.
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