|Nashville's unique title sequence recalls a popular style of 70s TV commercial for Greatest Hits record collections|
70s K-Tel Record Commercial
Altman's fondness for multiple storyline, character-based films with large ensemble casts and overlapping dialog just demanded a level of audience engagement that was rapidly going out of style with American moviegoers. (2001's
, which fit the above criteria, was a huge success for Altman. An occurrence attributable to the fact that by then the 76 year-old director and his trademark style had grown as cozily familiar and commodified as Hitchcock's.) Gosford Park
In 1975, American movie audiences- smarting from Watergate, inflation, the oil crisis, and the Vietnam War - showed its first signs of wearying of Hollywood's "auteur" era and its films that strove to be art. The blockbuster success of Jaws (released the same summer as
) unceremoniously put an end to Nashville 's brief love affair with "difficult" films that challenged and/or affronted them. Speaking with their boxoffice dollars, the country made it known that it was in the mood to be reassured and comforted at the movies again. Whether it be with imaginative retreads of familiar genres of the past (Star Wars, Rocky) or remakes of past successes (A Star is Born, King Kong), America was just sick and tired of being asked to think and pay close attention at the movies all the time. America
|Ronee Blakley as Barbara Jean|
|Henry Gibson as Haven Hamilton|
|Lily Tomlin as Linnea Reese|
|Keith Carradine as Tom Frank|
|Karen Black as Connie White|
With one foot planted in an era of scandal and disillusionment and the other poised on what could be the threshold of a renewed optimism and nationalistic stock-taking, Nashville (unquestionably one of the most timely films ever made) rather ambitiously set about giving the country an eyeful of itself. No one was expecting a red, white, & blue love letter from cinema's most acerbically cynical liberal, but Nashville's equating of politics with the phony, image-conscious flimflammery of show biz (the familist, piety-spouting, grassroots show biz of country music, at that) was a cautionary "Not so fast, America" hand raised to the nation's looming steamroller of ego-bolstering, rah rah, Bicentennial back-slapping.
|A constant visual and aural presence throughout Nashville is the campaign for fictional Presidential candidate Hal Phillip Walker|
The traffic jam that opens the film and the political rally that closes it are the only sequences that gather all the main characters of the film together in one site.
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS FILM:
Some of the more affecting story threads:
|The monumentally untalented Suleen Gay (Gwen Welles) would most ceratinly be a contestant on "Nashville Star" or "American Idol" today. In an early draft of the Nashville sceenplay, it was Suleen who would die at the end of the film (suicide).|
|Linnea (Tomlin in her Oscar-nominated film debut), the only Caucasian in an African-American gospel choir, sharing a family moment with her husband Delbert (Ned Beatty) and their two deaf children (Donna Denton and James Dan Calvert).|
|Runaway bride Albuquerque (Barbara Harris) and loner Kenny (David Hayward) commiserate on the road.|
PERFORMANCES:Of all the terrific performances in
THE STUFF OF FANTASY:The music in
|Troubled married duo, Mary (Cristina Raines) and Bill (Allan Nicholls) perform "Since You've Gone." a superb song composed by actor Gary Busey that never made it onto the Nashville soundtrack album.|
THE STUFF OF DREAMS:
When it comes to a film like
|Opal, the easily-distracted BBC journalist.|
In a filmed sequence that didn't make it into the final cut, it was revealed that Opal is a fraud and was only posing as a journalist.
I think it speaks well of the brilliance of everyone's work involved that you can extract any single character or situation and find a contemporary correlative. When I look at
, it surprises me how much Altman's intimate style and respect for what is extraordinary in the ordinary person, anticipates today's fascination with reality TV. Similarly, the lure of pop stardom (Sueleen and Albuquerque) and the very American desire to re-invent oneself (Shelley Duvall's airheaded changeling, L.A. Joan, nee Martha) find their modern parallel in image-based celebrities like Lady Gaga and assembly-line superstar factories like "American Idol." Nashville
|Haven- "This isn't Dallas! This is Nashville!"|
As the political rally erupts in tragic violence, a wounded Haven Hamilton loses his toupee and his composure.
AUTOGRAPH FILES: I got these autographs from Tim (Keith Carradine) and Mary (Cristina Raines) back in 1979 when I was working at a Honda dealership in Los Angeles (hence the grease-stained paper given to Raines).
Copyright © Ken Anderson