Monday, July 16, 2012


3 WOMEN (1977)

Director/Screenplay: Robert Altman

With every Robert Altman movie I see, I realize not just how great a filmmaker he was, but how never repeated himself. Yes, there are typical Altman characteristics in all his films, the overlapping often-improvised dialogue, the multi-narrative structures, the way the character connect with each other, the ease and flow of the way he shoots, etc., but he constantly takes these techniques that fascinate him, and places them in whatever film he happens to be making, whether it’s an anti-war satire with “M*A*S*H”, a western like “McCabe & Mrs. Miller”, film noir like “The Long Goodbye,” or even socially-elite murder-mystery satire, like “Gosford Park,” and even the multiple-narrative genre of films he created like “Nashville,” and “Short Cuts,” may be comparable in style, but in their subjects, are vastly different. While traditional Altman trademarks pepper all his movies, he finds fascinating ways to take all his natural aspects and completely reinvent genres. “3 Women,” a movie that Altman claimed he got in a dream one night, could be considered his most intense thriller, or maybe it’s even a horror movie on par with Hitchcock or Craven. It’s also plays in many ways like a combination of Bergman’s “Persona,” mixed with “Single White Female,” and then throws in some David Lynch, just to make us more confused. By the end of the movie, I had no idea what just happened, but I was completely fascinated by it. Millie (Shelley Duvall) is a Cosmopolitan-obsessed talker who works at a bizarre retirement home/spa in the middle of the California desert. She lives in a singles complex owned by Willie (Janice Rule) a pregnant sand painter, whose husband’s Edgar (Robert Fortier) is a drunken former TV stuntman who owns an out-of-the-way bar in the middle of a desert, where cops ride dirt bikes and an ammunition range is next to an abandoned miniature golf course. Millie eventually has to bring up a new co-worker, Pinky (Sissy Spacek) a Texas waif, who is quickly fascinated with Millie, but her fascination is eerie. It seems to erratically range from schoolgirl crush to obsessive mimic. Eventually, Millie and Pinky become roommates, and both become fascinated with Edgar, at different times, in different ways, and for different reasons. I’ve spent the last few minutes trying to figure out how to describe the rest of the events in the movie, but the more I think about it, it’s quite a useless exercise. The way one character in particularly acts, changes in ways that aren’t explained and they call into question whether or not a person’s personalities, behaviors and identities can be altered, or changed, or maybe even taken over by someone else entirely. Yet, certain actions and behaviors remain random and lead to events that are simply unpredictable. At a certain point, right before the ending, you’ll come across a moment, where you’ll have absolutely no idea what will happen next, similar to the way the rules of a dream are non-existent. There is an ending to the movie that explains nothing. Is the film a dream? Did it ever exist? Do the weird paintings have anything to do with it, or is anything real, including the ending? Your guess is as good as mine; I have no idea what it means, but you will certainly come up with theories, and will definitely not forget the experience of watching this film. It’s a movie that constantly builds tension, even after the major climatic scenes have occurred, tension continues as ever-changing life cycles are lived and encompassed by these three women.


Andrea Ostrov Letania said...

Awful pompous trash. McCabe is Altman's masterpiece.

Andrea Ostrov Letania said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrea Ostrov Letania said...

Interesting review.

David Baruffi said...

First of all, Altman has many masterpieces, and "McCabe and Mrs. Miller," is one of them, so is "3 Women," so is "The Player," so is "The Long Goodbye," so is "M*A*S*H", so is "Short Cuts," and yes, I'll agree with John Simon on this point, "Nashville," is his best film. Although, I think the review you posted is somewhat mean-spirited. He goes out of the way to talk about how horse-faced Lily Tomlin is? And he can't comprehend that a director might have multiple ideas of a film, and that it can be both, his view on the world, and make parallels to L.A. from forty years ago. Just because he can't hold multiple thoughts in his mind, doesn't mean that other can't. And asking what's the point of a metaphor about Old Hollywood, is just stupid. Why? Why not? A director can make any movie he damn well wants.(Which is one of the things I enjoy about "3 Women" immensely, it exists, just to exists, the same way a dream exists just to exists, it's just an inexplainable) That's like calling a Fellini film, too Felliniesque. I also object to his characterization of the BBC as "sedately respectable," although that's partly 'cause I have no idea what he means by that. ("Sedately respectable"? Now he's just putting two words that sound intelligent, hoping we won't notice that nothing is described like that, ever) Anyway, you're wrong on "3 Women," completely. It's up there with his very best,if for nothing else, it is his most unique and experimental film. Well, "Brewster McCloud," was more experimental but that was a comedy. "3 Women," is a precursor to films like "Memento," and "Mulholland Drive," hell almost all of David Lynch really. A mind-bending edge-of-your thriller, that really does keep you watching, even though you're totally in the dark about what's going on, why or how! More proof that Altman could do absolutely anything.

Thanks you for writing a negative comment by the way, you have no idea how long I've been waiting for one! You really made my day! :). And if you will, I still would like people to comment by giving me their list of the 10 Greatest TV Shows, like I did on my last blog. Thanks for reading.