Thursday, December 16, 2010

#132. McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)

DVD Synopsis: Presbyterian Church is a small mining town in the turn-of-the century Pacific Northwest - and a perfect place where gambler John Q. McCabe and bordello madam Constance Miller can do business. Robert Altman's dazzlingly original McCabe & Mrs. Miller, starring Warren Beatty and Julie Christie (a 1971 Best Actress Academy Award nominee for her work here), stands the mythology of the Old West on its ear. Shot on beautiful Vancouver wilderness locations, it captures the essence of a long-ago time, coupled with the edgy modern sensibility Altman brought to his other '70s masterworks M*A*S*H and Nashville. The spellbinding result, critic Pauline Kael wrote, is "a modern classic.

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 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's 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 personality to spare.


Chimesfreedom said...

It's a great movie that grows on me every time I see it. After reading your post, now I want to run home and pop my DVD of "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" into the player tonight.

DVD Infatuation said...

@Chimesfreedom: This movie is definitely in my top 5 of all time. Absolutely beautiful.

Thanks for stopping by, and for the comment (and enjoy the movie)!

Video SEO said...

A beautiful film and incredible title sequence. A colleague of mine just wrote a brilliant post on about the best title sequences!

DVD Infatuation said...

Video SEO: Thanks for stopping by, and for the comment.

I visited the link you left, and the article raises an interesting point about the level of art involved with creating title sequences. The clips chosen are also great examples of this.

Thanks for posting it!

Scotched said...

Good review, nicely done.
This was the first movie I ever worked on. A summer job, I thought, that lasted 20 years. Everything was new, and it was 'Altman' !
I had a ball developing negative and making the very first print. I watched the 16mm 'gag' reel given to Vilmos and lusted after a copy.
The outtakes were longer than the finished movie, as Altman shot 10 to 1. No other director could have gotten away with it.
But this was a masterpiece.

I learned both negative developing and printing during this movie.
I also learned how to fall in love with a movie.