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Robert Altman (1925-2006)

Today, Robert Altman died at the ripe old age of 81.

Up to this point, I've only ever seen three of his films: Nashville, which I found utterly boring. The Player, which I thought was very good, but could have been better. And finally, Gosford Park, which is a masterpiece! So it's quite a mixed bag in terms of my opinion of his work. But today none of that really matters.

This should be a sad day for anyone who truly loves cinema. I still can't believe that he made Gosford Park when he was 76! Talk about mourning not just for a man who was once great, but was great right till the end. No doubt, had he lived a few years more he would of kept on making films because he loved it so much.

Whether or not you loved Altman's films or the man himself (as he always made sure to speak his mind), it's impossible to overstate what he contributed. As long as he was around everyone could be sure that there would be at least one true maverick filmmaker around in America. For anyone who loves interweaving storylines, ensemble pieces, overlapping dialogue, you can thank Altman. For anyone who loves the works of Paul Thomas Anderson or Wes Anderson --whom by no coincidence of course are considered two of America's best and brightest filmmakers -- you can thank Altman.

Being a huge follower of the late Pauline Kael, who was an early champion of Altman before all the other critics hopped on the bandwagon, I had to take notice of him. Statements such as not being able to be friends with anyone who didn't like his McCabe & Mrs. Miller were incredibly bold even for someone who made as many bold statements as she did. She talked about Altman being a filmmaker who could seamlessly blend pop & art into his films. I'm not sure I ever quite understood what that meant until I recently saw Mission to Mars by Brian De Palma -- whom of course was another favourite of Kael's whom she described as being able to accomplish that same mix -- and finally my understanding caught up to my knowledge. And now that I get it, I realize how incredibly difficult it is to pull this off and how incredibly brave one has to be to try it.

I guess if anything good can come of this, it's that when word of Altman's death starts spreading to people, that maybe a few of them might be persuaded to check out one of his films. Speaking of which, I'll have to be finding me a copy of McCabe & Mrs. Miller soon :)

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