Altman, Chabrol, and Ray
THERE’S a sense in which, had Robert Altman’s new film been better, I probably would have liked it less. Nashville was “better”: it dumped a truckload of city-slicker’s scorn for “down-home” America at our doorstep, and yet covered its tracks so well that its enthusiasts were able to claim it was actually (if ambivalently) a celebration of the grit and fortitude of our vulgar country cousins. Buffalo Bill and the Indians or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson comes equipped with no such cagey defenses. The American flag (which figured so prominently in the conclusion of Nashville) is raised, and from then on there’s not a single shot that isn’t bathed in the yellowish, “autumnal” light of decrepitude. (The film does, in fact, seem to have been photographed entirel through yellow filters.) Nor could one easily find two lines together without at least one of them smacking of some point of instruction in the film’s own “history lesson.” Once again, the doors are thrown open for Robert Altman, your genial host, to give another of his famous parties, but this time it’s unmistakably a didactic moralizer who bursts out of the closet to greet you.
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