Robert Altman

We pay tribute to one of the most distinctive and audacious American directors.

July 2021

‘If I made a film that everybody liked, it would be pretty terrible’
Robert Altman

Introduction

July

  • The Long Goodbye

    The Long Goodbye

    Altman’s updating of Raymond Chandler’s classic detective novel to 70s LA makes for one of his greatest movies.

  • 3 Women

    3 Women

    Altman’s daringly dreamlike blend of comedy and drama concerns the encounter at a desert health-spa of three very different women.

  • Vincent and Theo

    Vincent and Theo

    Altman’s impressive account of Van Gogh’s final years compares and contrasts his life with that of his art-dealer brother.

  • The Player

    The Player

    Altman’s acerbically funny portrait of modern Hollywood, packed with gags, movie allusions and star turns.

  • Short Cuts

    Short Cuts

    Altman’s brilliant collage of Raymond Carver stories creates a dazzlingly imaginative tapestry of life in modern LA.

  • Prêt-à-porter

    Prêt-à-porter

    With a characteristically amazing cast, Altman’s multi-character satire set during Paris Fashion Week makes use of authentic locations and fashion folk.

  • Kansas City

    Kansas City

    Altman revisits the 1930s city of his childhood, vividly recreating its jazz clubs, speakeasies, political corruption and lively crime scene.

  • The Gingerbread Man

    The Gingerbread Man

    Altman’s John Grisham adaptation has Kenneth Branagh as a hotshot lawyer hitting tempestuous waters after he takes on a waitress’s case.

  • Cookie’s Fortune

    Cookie’s Fortune

    Altman’s touching black comedy of Deep Southern manners centres on the wrongful arrest for murder of an African American everyone believes is innocent.

  • Dr T & The Women

    Dr T & The Women

    Altman’s bright and breezy comedy sees a Dallas gynaecologist plunged into chaos as he tries to satisfy all the demands made of him by the many women in his life.

  • Gosford Park

    Gosford Park

    Altman’s foray into the world of the British aristocracy of the early 1930s combines social comment, satirical comedy and a murder mystery to dazzling effect.

  • The Company

    The Company

    Altman’s near-plotless, almost documentary-style account of the creation of a ballet production is one of the great dance movies.

  • A Prairie Home Companion

    A Prairie Home Companion

    Altman’s swansong is a funny, touching fable about the (fictional) closing-down of Garrison Keillor’s Minnesota radio variety show.

Introduction

Of the American filmmakers who found success in the 1970s, Robert Altman was the most distinctive and audacious.

In the second part of our retrospective (from July), we begin with Altman’s masterly portrait of Vincent Van Gogh – a European co-production resulting in a TV miniseries and a theatrical feature – then move on to his triumphant return to America with The Player and Short Cuts, movies which amply demonstrated that he’d lost none of his old ambition, creative independence or cinematic flair. Indeed, right until his very last film – the marvellous A Prairie Home Companion (which includes the line, ‘The death of an old man is not a tragedy’) – Altman continued to experiment, to look sympathetically at the lives of loners, losers and outsiders, and to ask questions about authority and power. He also, of course, continued to entertain – with wit, style, imaginative invention and genuinely humane compassion.

Geoff Andrew, season curator

Re-release

  • Nashville

    Nashville

    Altman’s magnum opus set in the country music capital is a witty and exhilarating portrait of modern America.

Want more?
Check the BFI YouTube channel for an additional online discussion on Robert Altman’s work
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