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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One of the best movies I've ever seen.It's closeness to Bergman's "Persona" is strongly felt,though both films are very individual pieces of art of two very different artists.It's a movie that leaves you thinking about it long after you finished watching it.One of it's strongest sides is a wonderful music that comes back to my mind every time I think about the film's disturbing images.The acting is excellent,especially by Spacek and Duvall and the operator's work is gorgeous. The film is about two common,mediocre,untalented(one,Millie,pretentious and pathetic and another one,Pinky,a grown-up infant who needs constant support and care)young women doing simple jobs in the Old Men's House(this is what they know and can do)and much older,quiet,reclusive but gifted artist Willie who paints beautiful murals describing strange male and female creatures in violent and sexual acts.I think these paintings are the key to understanding what kind of psychological relations Willie has with the outer world.This explains her estrangement and almost total silence during the film,giving preference to her wordless expression in an artful manner of her inner state and attitude towards the world.Actually this silent woman fells as a victim to the three other main characters - first losing her unfaithful,hard drinking friend-husband(?) Edgar as both Millie and then "new" Pinky in turn sleep with him(though both know very well that Willie is expecting a child)and then her baby when Pinky having been sent to call a doctor,just watches indifferently(this indifference is especially strongly felt after the Millie's "bloody" slap) as Millie is hopelessly trying to help Willie and finally fails. The ultimate expression of this unbearable cruelty of being is the dead-born baby,who "refuses to be born alive" into such a world.The end is open to interpretations:it may be easy to understand why Edgar could have been killed by Willie(though it is never revealed who did it),but it would be strange to discover that it is Pinky and Millie who actually did it(NOBODY FORCED them to sleep with Edgar and cause pain to Willie!). Love,depression,envy(What does Pinky think when she watches Willie painting?),psychological violence and hidden hatred are all interrelated in this superb human drama of an exceptionally talented film director.If you like cinema as an art,you won't regret watching it.Highly recommended.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a dreamy and at the same time intensely realistic film about
the life of one or two or three women living empty, lonely lives in a
small California desert town. If you have not already seen it, and if
you like any films by Ingmar Bergman or Robert Altman or David Lynch,
then stop reading this or any other review and see the film for
The fun of a movie like this, that is so realistic that it has no "correct" interpretation and even the movie's director and writer is not entirely sure what it "means," is to come up with your own theories and share with others who saw the film. My theory is that the three women are all separate individuals, who are alike in the sense that we are all one, but who are not alike in the way female characters/actresses are the same person in Persona, That Obscure Object of Desire, or Mulholland Drive. The sweet old couple really are Pinky's parents, and the suicide attempt leaves Pinky with amnesia, which is why she forgets her parents and confuses herself with Millie as she tries to reconstruct her life. Poor old Edgar gets shot by one of the women, or maybe all three, who make it look like an accident. It makes no sense for his body to be hidden in the tires, as that would not be an effective way of hiding him, the stench would attract attention, and the staged accident is consistent with a traditional body disposal. But maybe it is his body, just because stuff that happens in real life often makes no sense.
The real fun of this movie for me was the shock of the familiar, in picking out the tacky details of real life circa 1977. I was 20 when the film came out, and yes I do remember making shrimp cocktails, and cooking pigs-in-a-blanket like it was a new gourmet treat, and sorting out Sociables crackers eating the broken ones and saving the whole ones for company with canned cheese squirted on. I even had one of those silly laugh-toys (not a hag face, just a little box in a felt bag) that made the laughing sound and cracked everyone up. I didn't smoke Trues or drive a Ford Pinto, but I was around others who did.
And the Shelly Duvall character, with the heart of gold who lies constantly to try to make herself more interesting and who tries so hard to make everything perfect she annoys all the people she is trying to befriend? Too real.
Three Women was another Robert Altman masterpiece. His films have
always deeply explored the frailties, of the human personality. And
Three Women is typical of Altman's deftness, regarding intense
This film takes place in the late 70s, in a remote California town. It revolves around three very different female characters, and the effects that each of them has on each other's lives.
Shelley Duvall is cast as Millie. Millie is an intensely garrulous woman. She's obsessed with talking about recipes, that she garners from women's magazines. She annoys those around her, with her constant chatter about her 'latest recipe'.
Millie also desperately wants to impress her male acquaintances. Men seem to mostly shun Millie though, which doesn't stop her from trying to gain their attention.
Millie has a dead-end job, working as a nurse's aid in a nursing home. Her supervisors are brusque, and unsympathetic. She tries to be friendly and helpful, but this often causes her more problems with her bosses.
Pinky (played by the very talented Sissy Spacek) moves to Millie's town. She needs a job and is hired as a nurse's aid, at the same nursing home that Millie works at. Millie is assigned to train Pinky in her new job duties. Pinky soon becomes quite attached to Millie.
Finally, Millie has someone around (Pinky), who actually admires her. When Millie posts a notice on the bulletin board at work , indicating that she seeks a roommate, Pinky is only to happy to get the chance to room with Millie. Pinky then moves into Millie's apartment. Though Millie's apartment has a tacky, garish quality, Pinky expresses how sublime she thinks it is.
One afternoon after work, Millie asks Pinky to go with her to a run-down bar. Pinky meets Millie's friend Edgar, who has set-up a shooting rink out back. He constantly practices shooting there, and invites Millie and Pinky to participate. Edgar is a sophomoric, macho-type, who drinks heavily. He also likes to show-off his marksmanship skills.
Millie also introduces Pinky to Willie, who happens to be Edgar's artist girlfriend. Willie is always painting monstrous, sexually explicit creatures around the bar. Pinky is, inexplicably, mesmerized by Willie's offbeat paintings.
Willie has a haunting, remote presence. She mostly watches everyone else from afar, while being intensely involved with her artwork. Willie also happens to live in the same apartment building, as Millie and Pinky. Her disturbing paintings, adorn the bottom of the swimming pool located there.
Basically, the film doesn't have much of a plot. At least not in the traditional, linear manner that audiences are accustomed to. Instead, Altman chose to focus on the psychological aspects of the relationship between the three woman, and how this changes over time.
The friendship between Pinky and Millie becomes tumultuous, for no obvious reason. Willie is the ethereal, mysterious woman of the three. She doesn't interact much with Millie and Pinky throughout the film. Willie's artwork is so hypnotic to Pinky though, that it has a horrible effect on Pinky's psyche, resulting in tragic consequences. The viewer is left to try and fathom why.
All three women in the film, are social misfits. And they each struggle pathetically to function in the alienating, urban environment that they inhabit. Altman did a marvelous job, highlighting the emotional turmoil that the women inflict on each other, during the course of the film.
This is a film that will leave a deep impression, regarding the dynamics of women's friendships in modern life. But don't expect a neat and tidy conclusion, to the conflicts between the three women. More than any film I've ever seen, this one is vastly open to viewer interpretation.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I haven't seen all of Robert Altman's films, but I can easily say that he
one of the greatest innovators when it comes to character-driven films, as
seen in his large ensemble pieces from "Nashville" to "Short Cuts."
the reason why so many actors like to work with Altman is because he gives
them free-rein in the composition of their characters. Altman's ability to
capture the actor's talent of creating a character from the inside out is
less present in his 1977 drama "3 Women", a buried treasure of a film
starring Shelley Duvall and Sissy Spacek. "3 Women" is definitely a
character-driven film, as there is virtually no plot to speak of. To enjoy
this film is to be enamoured of Duvall and Spacek's performances, as well
Altman's daring and uncompromised vision.
Duvall plays Millie Lammoreaux, a young woman living in a barren California desert town whose delusions of grandeur place her in a fantasy world full of social gatherings, dinner parties, and gentleman callers. Whether she is at the nursing homes where she works or the residential motel where she lives, she carries on as if she were the cat's meow, oblivious to the fact that her incessant ramblings about everything from her favorite food recipes to hula dancing lessons are falling on deaf, in not unkind, ears. Because of her endearing qualities however, Millie is a loveable misfit. The way she always slams her car door on the hem of her skirt says so much about her character.
Spacek plays Pinky Rose, a new employee at the nursing home who takes an immediate liking to Millie and soon becomes her roommate. A childlike waif, Pinky emulates Millie in the same way a 6-year-old girl looks up to her big sister. While she completely feeds Millie's self-absorption, she also turns Millie's life upside down when she takes on her identity, borrowing her clothes and copying down her social security number.
The third woman in "3 Women" is Willie Hart (played by Janice Rule), a sullen, pregnant woman who spends her time painting disturbing murals inside empty swimming pools. She is also married to Edgar (played by Robert Fortier), a drunken lout whose claim to fame as a former stunt double in famous Wyatt Earp westerns makes him a figure of admiration at the motel. The weirdness sets in when Millie invites Edgar over for an adulterous fling, causing a dejected Pinky to jump into the motel's swimming pool from a second story landing, putting her in a coma. This event is the first major plot point in "3 Women". as it spins the storyline in a completely new direction. Pinky wakes up from the coma, rejects her parents who have traveled all the way from Texas to see her, and turns into a surly beer-swilling, gum-chewing tramp. Overcome with guilt, Millie also changes into a different person. Her inflated ego disappears, she becomes more passive, and she caters to Pinky even while Pinky bullies her and treats her with complete disrespect.
"3 Women" has undoubtedly inspired wonder in whoever has seen it. The tone of the film is extremely strange and dreamlike and is filled with many symbols that defy the viewer who tries to make heads or tails of them. There are also many archetypal, mythical figures in "3 Women" that seem to come right out of a Jungian dream analysis book. For instance, Pinky's fixation with Polly and Peggy, two twins who work at the nursing home with her and Millie, figures prominently in the film right down to its climactic dream sequence. At one point in the movie, Pinky muses, "Do you think they know which one they are?...Maybe they switch back and forth. One day Peggy's Polly, and another day Polly's Peggy." Janice Rule's Willie also seems to be an archetype, the mother figure.
Altman doesn't attempt to explain any of the weird connections in "3 Women." Every time I watch this film, I find myself confounded by the same questions: why are the twins so aloof? why is Millie and Pinky's supervisor so unrelentingly bitchy? why is Pinky twice shown taking off her underwear from underneath her skirt? The list goes on. Altman does provide a few rhyming scenes in the film as well. One such scene is one in which nice Pinky is sitting in a deserted bar and is spat upon by a hideous wall ornament in the figure of a wizened old woman, named "Dirty Gertie", whose mechanical laugh accompanies Willie's entrance into the scene. This scene prefigures a later scene in which bad Pinky mischievously spits beer at Edgar and then proceeds to cackle in an exaggerated fashion.
It is a shame that "3 Women" is not available on home video or DVD. I happened to catch it on the cable network known as WE (Women's Entertainment) and was so intrigued by it that I looked up the next time it was playing so that I could record it. It is a wonderfully unusual film and Duvall and Spacek are up to task. The role of Millie Lammoreaux is a career best for Duvall. She has never played such a rich character before or after "3 Women." This is also my personal favorite Spacek performance. The spookiness of her performance here rivals her performance in "Carrie." She deftly portrays both Pinkys with equally terrific conviction. And Altman is to be commended (even 24 years after the fact) for bringing such a refreshingly unconventional story to the screen. "3 Women" is arguably the best and most mystifying film that I don't think I will ever understand.
...and creates something even more fascinating than Bergman's film.
Although they're not exactly equally themed films, the theme of female
identity-swapping is similar in both. "3 Women" is a dark, allegorical
and poignant study of loneliness and search for identity. Pinky Rose
(Sissy Spacek) is a shy Texan girl who idolizes her pathetic co-worker
Millie Lammoreaux (Shelley Duvall), a young woman who's ignored by
everybody around her - except Pinky. Pinky soon becomes Millie's new
roommate, but their friendship doesn't make Millie feel any less
ostracized by her peers, and an extreme act of Pinky will turn
everything upside down.
Sissy Spacek, right after the huge hit "Carrie", delivered another unforgettable performance. That's no surprise considering Spacek is one of the finest American actresses of all time; the real surprise here is Shelley Duvall, who usually got small roles in great films and never was considered a great actress. When she had a big role in a Kubrick film (the now classic "The Shining"), everybody hated her, and unfortunately that's what most people remember her for (which is unfair, since she was okay in my books; come on, you'd also act hysterical if your husband was chasing you and your son with an axe!). However, 3 years before "The Shining", Duvall gave a mesmerizing, wonderfully nuanced performance as the pathetic Millie, a cross between Blanche DuBois and Pollyanna. A character that could've been annoying if played by a less talented actress, but that became fascinating in Duvall's body. We all know or met people like Millie at least once in our lives, and at moments you just wish you could give her a hug.
"3 Women" is one of Robert Altman's best, and, consequently, one of the best films of all time. The man who knew how to make ensemble dramas like no other (Nashville, Short Cuts, The Player, Gosford Park, etc.) was also brilliant at creating intimate portraits/character studies. 1 woman became 2/2 women became 3/3 women became 1, which can be summed up by: Birth, growing up, awakening, and (in)stability. The artist, his art, perception, film, and life themselves. 10/10.
I’ve had the Criterion DVD of this for quite some time before I finally
managed to sit down and watch it. The film came at the tail-end of
director Altman’s most creative period, and it’s not one that can be
easily categorized – much like his earlier (and equally demanding)
IMAGES (1972); incidentally, both are original screenplays by Altman
himself and are essentially dream-like and rambling, thus leaving room
for (respectively) various interpretations and much improvisation.
Anyway, the ‘narrative’ concerns the odd relationship between the titular figures: Sissy Spacek is the inexperienced and reticent type; at her new work-place, an old folks’ home, she meets Shelley Duvall who, on the other hand, is worldly and garrulous – but no less lonely; Janice Rule, then, is a bohemian artist whom they occasionally cross paths with (her strange designs adorn the floor of the pool at the apartment house where the other two live). For the first 90 minutes or so, there’s hardly any plot: we see Spacek and Duvall at their work routine (where they’re pretty much ignored by their co-workers), then bonding when the former moves in with the latter (again, their neighbors aren’t very friendly), and occasionally visiting the bar out in the desert (complete with motor-track and shooting-range) owned by Rule and her husband. Eventually, however, the two grow apart as Duvall begins to find Spacek’s maladroit ways a nuisance – the last straw is reached when Duvall comes home with Rule’s husband on her arms and unceremoniously shifts Spacek into the guest room: the latter takes this dismissal badly and attempts suicide in the pool!
It’s here that the film really starts to get weird: when Spacek finally comes to, she’s a totally different person – assertive and sensual, she basically takes up the characteristics that had previously been Duvall’s, by which the latter is confused and becomes the one to feel awkward! Nevertheless, she tries to help by sending for Spacek’s parents in Texas so that they can be near her: however, her room-mate doesn’t appreciate the gesture as, apparently, being struck by temporary amnesia, she claims not to know them! Later, Rule’s husband turns up once again at their apartment – having deserted his pregnant wife; Duvall, however, grabs Spacek and goes to Rule’s aid – Duvall asks Spacek to fetch a doctor, but the latter seems dumb-founded by all of this…so that the baby emerges still-born! Following this is a quite extraordinary surreal dream sequence, which leads us into the finale – where Spacek is tending bar at Rule’s place: when a patron appears, she calls on to her mother Duvall(!); it transpires that the latter is taking care of Spacek and Rule who, for some reason, seem to have regressed to a child-like state!
The script provides an interesting analogy between the protagonists’ character names: Spacek, called Pinky throughout, is really named Mildred; Duvall is Millie, which is short for Mildred; while Rule’s character is referred to as Willie (probably a diminutive of Wilhelmina) and which, of course, rhymes with Millie! Incidentally, the presence of the twins (co-workers of Spacek and Duvall) anticipates the film’s later personality switch a' la PERSONA (1966) and PERFORMANCE (1970). Comedy, though of the neurotic kind one usually associates with Woody Allen, is present during the course of the film – such as the neighbor Duvall fancies but whom she rejects due to his persistent flu, and ex-film director John Cromwell’s appearance as Spacek’s senile father. While the general apathy shown towards Spacek and Duvall also raises a nervous chuckle, it seems exaggerated to me – for instance, after Spacek’s spell in hospital, Duvall asks her superiors if she can come back to work…but they maintain to not even recall her (though, admittedly, this ties up with Spacek’s own earlier ‘rejection’ of her parents)! Despite the emphasis Altman places on the murals (painted by one Bodhi Wind), no explanation is given regarding their harrowing nature other than the fact that they’re the handiwork of the eccentric Rule, so that their point remains obscure to the last.
I would’ve liked to listen to Atman’s accompanying Audio Commentary – however, as I’ve explained elsewhere, I’ve been forced to by-pass such lengthy supplements for the time being…and, in any case, from past experience I’d say that his observations seemed to be just as aloof as the films themselves!
I don't feel I can add anything to the excellent commentary by the other reviewers for "3 Women"; I just want to urge film lovers of all stripes to check out Altman't commentary on the Criterion DVD. In the liner notes, they refer to it as "wide-ranging;" it IS that, and expansive, too. It is almost as if Altman was saying to himself, "Well, I'm not going to be around much longer, so I am going to speak my peace about how I feel about film-making and let it all hang out". For the true aficionado, this is as good as it gets. You'll want to savor it in chunks it is so thought-provoking. Not only does Altman reveal all the hidden meanings of the film, he explains at length (with copious examples) the philosophy of his art. It shed light on my previous encounters with Altman's "difficult" style; highly recommended.
This is exactly what the film is about. Someone who doesn't really know
who they are-yet. Someone who is desperately seeking someone to pattern
their life after. Who is your inspiration? Who is your idol? If you
have no one and are in an area where there are few inspiring people
then you pick the least threatening. And this is sort of what the story
is about. Someone who is a blank slate and looking to fill in the
space. Excellent film! I've watched it probably 50 times in my life. It
is fascinating with low key performances by Sissy Spacek and Shelly
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In 3 Women, Robert Altman paints a portrait of loneliness that manages
to disturb, amuse, puzzle and sadden the viewer. Altman wrote the
screenplay himself and builds the action on mundane situations: an
awkward young woman, Pinky (Sissy Spacek) starts working at a spa and
becomes obsessed with a fellow worker, Millie (Shelley Duvall).
Circumstances lead the two to share a room, allowing us to have a peek
at the emptiness and pointlessness of their lives. There's not much of
a story here, mostly illustrations of disturbing, embarrassing scenes
that should ring true to anyone that spends time with people on a daily
Pinky and Millie have two different personalities. Pinky seems to have trouble making friendships, lies about her past and develops a fixation for Millie, perhaps because Millie was the only person who showed some kindness or gave her any attention on her first day on the job.
Millie, like Pinky, is lonely, but whereas Pinky seems comfortable with it, Millie can't seem to bear it. She's always trying to get dates, she has problems with rejection; and when Pinky shacks up with her, she tries to impress the gullible woman by showing herself as popular and cool with people at work or with her neighbours. In fact, for all the chatter that comes out of Millie's mouth, no one pays any attention to her or says anything to her, except a bored 'yeah', if she's lucky.
Shelley Duvall, whom I know only from The Shinning and whom everyone calls a horrible actress, steals the show as Millie. It's no surprise Spacek can act, she's one of the finest actresses to emerge from the '70s. But Duvall shines here as the silly, arrogant, deluded Millie.
What makes Millie so fascinating is that she's instantly recognisable: we see people like every day, we know people like her, and - heaven help us - we have a bit of her in us too. Although the movie is dreamy, enigmatic and eschews simple answers, its characters are rooted in realism.
I'm not a big fan of Robert Altman, but having watched this movie and Images back to back, I can say I'm beginning to admire him at last.
So I watched 1977's dream flick "3 women", by the late great Robert Altman. This movie stars both Shelly Duvall and Sissy Spacek, both who won awards for their acting in this film. So is this movie good, yes if you like the surreal (which I do). Is it a classic, I say yes but of cult status only. This is not a mainstream movie. Even for Altman this movie is out there. This is not one of his typical dialog driven smart comedy. It is a flick about images, ideas, and things that are open for interpretation. Including the end which Altman himself said he was not quite sure he understood. The inspiration for this film was in fact a dream Altman had. This film starts out seemingly normal but slowly morphs into a dream, becoming stranger and stranger with each passing scene. I recommend this movie for indy lovers and art lovers. I am not sure many others would appreciate the rather intellectual high art concept of this film. Watching this movie with friends may be the best way to go, with the right group this film could inspire a deep philosophical and existential debate. if you like concise reviews of interesting films please read my other reviews at http://raouldukeatthemovies.blogspot.com/
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