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Nashville (1975) [The Criterion Collection #683] [Re-UP]

Posted By: Someonelse
Nashville (1975) [The Criterion Collection #683] [Re-UP]

Nashville (1975)
2xDVD9 | VIDEO_TS | NTSC 16:9 | 02:40:23 | 7,56 Gb + 7,51 Gb
Audio: English AC3 5.1 @ 448 Kbps | Subtitles: English SDH
Genre: Drama, Music | The Criterion Collection #683

Director: Robert Altman
Stars: Keith Carradine, Karen Black, Ronee Blakley

This cornerstone of 1970s American moviemaking from Robert Altman is a panoramic view of the country’s political and cultural landscapes, set in the nation’s music capital. Nashville weaves the stories of twenty-four characters - from country star to wannabe to reporter to waitress - into a cinematic tapestry that is equal parts comedy, tragedy, and musical. Many members of the astonishing cast wrote their own songs and performed them live on location, which lends another layer to the film’s quirky authenticity. Altman’s ability to get to the heart of American life via its eccentric byways was never put to better use than in this grand, rollicking triumph, which barrels forward to an unforgettable conclusion.


Nashville was Robert Altman’s defining film of the seventies, the moment when the precocious talent behind M*A*S*H, The Long Goodbye and California Split showed exactly what he could do with a lengthy running time and a large collection of characters. If the film seems a little less radical 30 years on, it’s only because some of the themes remain rooted in the era and Altman continued to refine his technique in subsequent films. Otherwise, the film remains a brilliant, complex study of character and national mood.

Nashville (1975) [The Criterion Collection #683] [Re-UP]

As the title suggests, the setting is Nashville, Tennessee, home of country and western. It’s also the latest stop-off for the political campaign of Hal Phillip Walker, the mysterious, surprise independent candidate in the Presidential primaries who is poised to win the state. So the film follows 24 assorted musicians, political types and regular folk over five days of music and campaigning, their lives interweaving and subtlety impacting upon one another. Altman doesn’t like to give his characters big entrances, and with no single storyline to establish it takes a little time to get into the rhythm of the film. The term ‘Altman-esque’ is often used for ensemble directors like Paul Thomas Anderson, but really, no one makes movies like the man himself. Altman’s camera is there to observe and rarely to judge, and things happen in lengthy, medium takes – if you didn’t catch a line of dialogue, well, tough luck – but it won’t hinder your enjoyment.

Nashville (1975) [The Criterion Collection #683] [Re-UP]

A traffic jam on the freeway from the airport into town allows us to meet most of the protagonists. There’s Tom (Keith Carradine), the womanising folk-rocker in town to record and track down Linnea (Lily Tomlin), a gospel singer he met some months earlier. Linnea is married to Delbert (Ned Beatty), a local businessman helping Walker’s campaign man John Triplette (Michael Murphy) organise a promotional concert. Elsewhere, Henry Gibson plays the city’s biggest singing star and biggest ego, Ronee Blakley is a visiting singer who collapses upon arrival and is hospitalised, while David Arkin plays an ageing man whose wife is dying in the same hospital while his visiting niece (Shelley Duvall) hangs out with the musicians in town.

Nashville (1975) [The Criterion Collection #683] [Re-UP]

Inevitably some characters and stories are given more space than others, and although the film was scripted by journalist Joan Tewkesbury, much of the dialogue and background action is clearly the result of improvisation. Nashville is often extremely funny, and Altman has an uncanny ability to mix the comic with the dramatic, often in the same scene. There’s a wonderful moment when Tom sings a passionate, affecting love song in a bar, and four different women in attendance presume he’s singing for them (the true recipient of this ode being Linnea, the only one he’s yet to sleep with). And the hilarity produced by the sight of bimbo waitress Sueleen (Gwen Welles) crooning tunelessly at a fund-raising gig quickly disappears when she is forced to strip in front of the baying businessmen present; likewise Blakley’s on-stage breakdown begins funny but quickly strays into the realms of deeply uncomfortable.

Nashville (1975) [The Criterion Collection #683] [Re-UP]

The performances are uniformly superb, but there are some real standouts. Lily Tomlin (then better known as a comedienne) is incredibly empathetic as a loving wife and mother who nevertheless is lured into temptation by the handsome rocker who lavishes her with the sexual attention she no longer gets at home. And the best comic performance is supplied by Geraldine Chaplin (Charlie’s daughter) as a pretentious, overbearing BBC reporter in town to record a documentary, her pushy style leading to an endless stream of hilarious gaffs and bemused looks. As for the music, Altman eschews country standards for an entirely original score composed and performed by the cast – the director gives considerable space to the music, running songs in their entirety and never cutting away from them just to get on with things.

Nashville (1975) [The Criterion Collection #683] [Re-UP]

There is also a political agenda here, although it is not overt. Hal Phillip Walker’s campaign prides itself on rejecting everything the two main parties hold dear – the national anthem, the idea of lawyers serving in the senate – but in the end his party is no different. John Triplette is as slick and two-faced as any other campaign manager, and the climatic concert takes place before a huge American flag, as the crowds gathered soak up the image and the music, but not the message. And although Altman clearly respects the musical legacy of the city, he is also very aware of the clichés and prejudices of country and western. Triplette describes it as "redneck", and popular black singer Tommy Brown (Timothy Brown) is called "the whitest nigger in town" by short order cook Wade (Robert DoQui), who feels Brown has betrayed their roots and sold out to the whitest of all music scenes.

Nashville (1975) [The Criterion Collection #683] [Re-UP]

Most of the story strands are left unresolved, but Nashville does climax with a ‘big’ event – an attempted assassination – that allows Altman to end on a bittersweet, nicely ironic payoff. There’s a lot to take in, but Nashville starts off great and gets even better on repeated viewings – a true American classic. Watch for amusing cameos from Elliott Gould and Julie Christie, playing themselves.
Nashville (1975) [The Criterion Collection #683] [Re-UP]

Of the innumerable dazzling moments in Nashville, there's one that particularly testifies to the film's enduring stature as a somehow ageless American time capsule. Barbara Jean (Ronee Blakely) is a traveling country singer who almost immediately collapses upon reaching the airport in Nashville, and in front of gathering press; later on, her husband and manager, Barnett (Allen Garfield), is sitting by her side in the hospital, eating fried chicken and discussing with her how they should handle the politics of thanking Barbara Jean's replacement for an upcoming show. Barbara Jean is professionally, perhaps also sexually, threatened by competition, and she insists that Barnett disregard a variety of social and professional obligations that he intends to see through whether or not she approves. But, this being a Robert Altman film, none of these subtexts are voiced directly, and lines that are seemingly inconsequential assert themselves on the rebound maybe 10 minutes after we've already moved on to another privileged moment in another set of characters' lives. Considering this scene between Barbara Jean and Barnett a day later, you may wonder who's emotionally abusing who, and the most likely, and interesting, answer would characterize the relationship as unhealthy though weirdly nourishing, and not entirely tangibly informed by the professional and personal realms they navigate.

Nashville (1975) [The Criterion Collection #683] [Re-UP]

In this scene, Altman tells you more in a few spare moments about the emotional texture of a showbiz couple than most actual biopics manage over the course of their entire running times, and the miracle of Nashville resides in just how many similarly evocative and empathetic scenes Altman and his amazing cast manage to forge over the course of 160 minutes. Over the years, the director frequently compared his methods of filmmaking to the painting of a large mural, with the actors he chose often functioning as both the paints of his work as well as its found objects, and that isn't a case of an artist's poetic hyperbole. Re-watching Nashville again is to be reminded of the sheer enormity of the film's canvas, which offers a vision of America as a fabulously irreverent and destructive melting pot—a society spinning a farce of ever-expanding entitlement without any notion or expectation of its corresponding personal, political, and social costs.

Nashville (1975) [The Criterion Collection #683] [Re-UP]

Nashville doesn't quite have the emotional fullness of later Altman films such as Short Cuts and The Company, as it was made at the height of its creator's run of defiantly smart-ass epics. But people who criticize Nashville for its occasional glibness are mistaking empathy and theme for a default authorial tic. America was literally created by its irreverence, and later defined by it, and Altman understands his country and celebrates it while, at the same time, often mercilessly lampooning it. Nashville shows the tragedy of America to ultimately be one of a failure of self-consciousness, as the most heartbreaking moments show people's delusions being casually obliterated by the truth of the grazing indifference of social life at large, as it's actually lived.

Nashville (1975) [The Criterion Collection #683] [Re-UP]

The film is an untraditional musical that, like most musicals, offers a testament to the artistic transcendence that's inherent in its very existence. We see glorious washed-up stars mixing with never-will-be's, and then we see them take the stage to offer performances that often actively rise above the limitations of the platitudes they're putting forth. Haven Hamilton (Henry Gibson) sings a song that, on the page, epitomizes the absurd ego of America, bragging that a country to last for 200 years must be doing something right; never minding that 200 years isn't a squirt of piss in the context of civilizations that have been around for thousands. But Hamilton's conviction, not to mention the surprisingly engaging depth of his voice, spins the kitsch into a beautiful, unintentionally ironic ode to hyperbole. And Altman never short cuts his characters' transcendence; he doesn't edit the musical numbers to pieces, allowing one to savor them and to take them in.

Nashville (1975) [The Criterion Collection #683] [Re-UP]

There's also still quite a bit of mystery left within this transcendent film nearly 40 years after its release, as it's one of only a few American pictures that suggest the medium's capacity to operate as a truly vast, visual novel or, perhaps even more fittingly, to operate as a visual counterpart to a concept album, with its refrains, choruses, and through lines. Stunningly, it isn't even Altman's best film (that would be McCabe & Mrs. Miller), but Nashville is still the movie that best embodies everything that was so freeing and generous and deceptively casual about Altman's art, and it's the film that best represents him as a uniquely American artist. This is a film you could proudly show to a person from another country with the proviso: This is America, for better and worse. This is everything right and wrong that the experiment of this country has led to, and will probably lead to.

Love it, hate it, or love it and hate it, Nashville is one of the most revealing portraits of America ever made, and it's never looked or sounded this good.
Nashville (1975) [The Criterion Collection #683] [Re-UP]

Special Features:
DISC ONE:
- Audio commentary featuring director Robert Altman
- Trailer

DISC TWO:
- New documentary on the making of the film, featuring interviews with actors Ronee Blakley, Keith Carradine, Michael Murphy, Allan Nicholls, and Lily Tomlin; screenwriter Joan Tewkesbury; assistant director Alan Rudolph; and Altman’s widow, Kathryn Reed Altman (01:11:15)
- Three archival interviews with Altman (1975-26:36, 2000-12:13, 2002-7:50)
- Behind-the-scenes footage (12:33)
- Demo of Carradine performing his songs from the film (12:05)

All Credits goes to Original uploader.

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