Wednesday, November 6, 2013

602. NASHVILLE (1975)

Running Time: 159 minutes
Directed By: Robert Altman
Written By: Joan Tewkesbury
Main Cast: Henry Gibson, Ronee Blakely, Keith Carradine, Karen Black, Ned Beatty
Click here to view the trailer


Here we go again with the unpredictably Robert Altman. By unpredictable, I mean that I can never quite predict what I'm going to think of his films. Thought I'd hate "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" and I was wrong and I thought I'd hate "Nashville", for some reason, and I was wrong again.

The blueprints here are very similar to those of "Short Cuts", in that we're thrown a big handful of characters (with notable actors to boot) and are all set to follow various different plot lines, on our way to the climax. The film is set in Nashville, Tennessee (imagine that) and takes us into the heart of the country music business and all the corruption that comes along with it. Who knew these sweetheart country & western musicians were such scum buckets? Well, they may not be in reality, but Altman doesn't paint a very desirable lifestyle for the boot-scoot-boogie generation. Against the backdrop of the south and the country tunes, there's also a splash of politics, as the whole thing leads to a rally for Replacement Party Presidential candidate, Hal Phillip Walker, where many of the top names in the country music industry will perform, including: Haven Hamilton (Gibson - what a character name, I love it), the veteran of Nashville and perhaps the most dastardly of all the country & western stars, Barbara Jean (Blakely), the just released from the hospital, sweetheart of Nashville and perhaps country music's biggest star and Tom (Carradine), a womanizer who over the course of the film begins to disassociate himself with his musical partners, Bill and Mary of "Bill, Mary and Tom".

Like "Underground", this may have been a film that I enjoyed for the wrong reasons, which again proposes the question: Is there a right and wrong way to enjoy a film? I don't think so, because I'm sure a lot of the subtle winks that Altman was making toward the camera were going right over my head, yet I enjoyed "Nashville" just fine for the overlapping stories, the memorable characters and the songs, my God the songs! Granted, I'm not a big country music fan (a little Garth Brooks here & there and maybe a touch of Zac Brown Band, from time to time) and sure, these weren't the greatest songs ever written or anything like that, but they were damn good! To think that the actors actually wrote and performed their own songs - that's the ultra fascinating part. Here's a small list, with links for the outsiders:

Bluebird by Timothy Brown
Keep A Goin' by Henry Gibson
For the Sake of the Children by Henry Gibson
One, I'll Love You by Ronee Blakely and Henry Gibson

Yeah, I dug the Gibson tunes. This guy swoops in and not only does a fine job in "The Long Goodbye", but totally steals the show for me in "Nashville", proving he can write tunes and bring the acting chops. Perhaps ONE OF (one of hundreds) the most memorable characters that THE BOOK has introduced me to. Add to that fine performances from Ned Beatty, Allen Garfield, Keith Carradine and Keenan Wynn, as well as a somewhat nostalgic (for me personally) atmosphere. See, I grew up with a father who LOVED him some country music and in a community where a lot of the residents (myself NOT included) loved their Nascar, not to mention barbecues and that down home feel. When you mix that with the corruption and unease of the time (Watergate and Vietnam), it made for an ultra unique setting and I dug it. I'm not even going to touch the ending, only to say that it took me by surprise - whether I liked it or not, I honestly can't say.

RATING: 7/10  So yeah, despite a rough start ("MASH"), Altman is definitely pleasing me as a movie goer, while only getting to that very high upper echelon of rating one time. Can "The Player" keep the good Altman streak alive.


November 6, 2013  7:38pm


  1. Just for fun, go on Andrew, quickly, before you read any further..
    a)What is my opinion on country music
    b) what did I make of nearly 3 hours of it?

    OK, not fair to spring that on you so quickly and at this time of the morning (night) (evening - you've just got back from work?)

    You probably guessed that I really do not like country music at all... or more to the point, the attitudes it (sometimes) represents.
    So I'm thinking it didn't take much to realise that I'd go for a film that (in my opinion) exposes the (to me) rotten core of the business under the surface that likes to see itself as good and wholesome.

    Andrew, your Dad likes this music, so I'm really sorry if that offended you in anyway. As with all sorts of human activity, people attach themselves to, and give meanings to, all sorts of tings that the creators of that 'thing' do not intend. Many more don't. Just because some country fans (and musicians them selves) can represent some rather .. questionable.... points of view, it cannot mean everyone who follows that 'thing' is up there with the dodggy ones.
    Which was a rather long winded way of saying that, just because some, often vocal and prominent sections of the country music scene are racist and religiously intolerant, I'm not saying it is a taken fact that everyone involved is. (In short; I'm not being rude to your Dad!)

    Help, where on earth did all that come from? Sorry.

    Regard it as a disclaimer, so that when I say country music has an image problem as being a tad political/ethically questionable, I'm talking in general terms.

    All that rambling has a point as that is what this film is about.. the dark, seamy, unpleasant side of Nashville.

    I loved this film. I wish I could get hold of a reasonably priced copy on DVd to keep. I saw it - oh, maybe 30 + years ago on TV.., then about 10 years ago it was on again.. and it MIS -RECORDED. The only way I could get this to see again for my tick, was a second hand VHS i had to import at great expense from the USA, which for space reasons had to be passed on.

    I loved the characterisation - yes, especially Henry Gibson's. I loved the structure of the film, and i loved the political satire of the replacement party that says absolutely nothing at all.
    A big hit with me.

    And more apologies for the ramblings..


    1. No offense taken toward my Dad.

      Actually, you sort of made me get the point of this one a little bit more. The parallels between country music singers and politicians, with their big phony smiles and patriotic overtones was a good choice for Altman to expose and it really worked, didn't it? In fact, Henry Gibsons's Haven Hamilton is just how you'd expect a politician to be. A pure, class gentlemen in front of the public and a real despicable human being when the camera's are off....

      Good comment and good discussion...


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