Thursday, October 31, 2013
528. McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971)
Running Time: 121 minutes
Directed By: Robert Altman
Written By: Robert Altman, Brian McKay, Edmund Naughton
Main Cast: Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Rene Auberjonois, William Devane, John Schuck
Click here to view the trailer
ALTMAN WEEK: CHAPTER II
Again, I want to say that I hope everyone enjoyed the FRIGHTFEST stuff as much as I enjoyed watching and reviewing the films. Even the bad ones were a hoot and I'll probably turn FRIGHTFEST into a yearly tradition. I also hope everyone out there had a safe and happy Halloween. I'm really not a Halloween nut myself (you know, besides posting the seven horror movie reviews), but I know some people get into and more power to them. Anyway, "McCabe and Mrs. Miller"...
What a breath of fresh air of a movie this gem was! I'll praise it in a bit, but for now, let me bring you up to speed on the plot. McCabe (Beatty) is a cowardly, yet smart mouthed gambler, who also fancies himself a businessman. Upon the film's opening, McCabe is settling into a cozy saloon, with a fresh deck of cards, ready to win his way into the proverbial penthouse. Skip ahead and we see McCabe dealing with a man for three "chippy's" a.k.a. three women, whom he intends to start a brothel with. He gets the gals and takes them back to his headquarters, which is still in the process of being built. For now, McCabe puts the three ladies into three separate tents and writes their names above the entrance ways. It doesn't take long for McCabe to actually get some real buildings built though and with the guidance of Mrs. Miller (Christie) - a know it all in the prostitute game - he starts to make a few dollars, although nowhere near what he expects to earn. When a couple of big time businessmen come to town and offer to buy all of McCabe's holdings for the meager sum of $5500, he refuses, not realizing that the men work for a man named Shaughnessy, who is known for having men killed who turn down his business offers. So, not wanting to disrepute himself, Shaughnessy dispatches three hitmen, who aim to kill McCabe!
When I say that this film is a "breath of fresh air", I don't necessarily mean that it's head & shoulders above other films I've watched this season, but rather, I mean that it was unlike anything I'd seen before. It was kind of western, though had an edge, which made it unlike any western I'd seen before. It's tone was almost defined by the Leonard Cohen score, which seemed to put me in a trance at the opening credits (with "The Stranger Song") and not let up until McCabe was frozen solid, amidst the harsh, wintry winds in the film's finale. It also had a unique, memorable performance by Beatty too. I say uniquely good, because normally I'm just not a Beatty fan, yet I loved him here. And no, it wasn't because he got all the best lines (talking about frogs with wings and turds in peoples pockets), but rather he played it cool, seemingly hiding behind the thick beard of McCabe and plotting his every word, using his vocabulary, body language and acting skills like chess pieces. "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" requires a patient audience, as it does have a tendency to move at a snail's pace, although for this viewer, the leisurely pace was warranted and welcome. It just seemed to be THAT movie that doesn't need to be rushed, that just means to take it's time and let things play out. I mean, the film spends basically the entire last hour establishing the businessmen who propose a deal to McCabe, McCabe's refusal of the deal and his dealings with the hitmen. Of course, the whole thing ends with a fantastic shoot out in the snow, so it more than makes up for the moments of the film that tend to lag a bit.
And seriously, if the networks insisted on turning one of Altman's movies into a television show, why couldn't it have been this one?! I wasn't born yet, but I'd have totally gone back and tracked down syndicated airings of the "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" weekly television show, with Kris Kristofferson as McCabe (he was just starting his acting career in '71) and some very talented actress as Mrs. Miller. GOLD! Anyway, pipe dreams aside, this is one that I thoroughly enjoyed. Sure, it had it's flaws in there too, but I chose, for the most part, to overlook them and the few that were there, were easily able to be ignored.
RATING: 7.5/10 Seriously, I've listened to The Stranger Song more than a couple of times today. Give it a listen and then go watch this movie. Altman redeems himself with "The Long Goodbye" on deck.
MOVIES WATCHED: 752
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 249
October 31, 2013 11:21pm
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