IMDb > Quintet (1979)
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Quintet (1979) More at IMDbPro »

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Quintet -- Tumbling dice in this trailer for the thriller


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Robert Altman (story) &
Lionel Chetwynd (story) ...
View company contact information for Quintet on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
24 August 1979 (West Germany) See more »
One man against the world.
During a future ice age, dying humanity occupies its remaining time by playing a board game called "Quintet." For one small group, this obsession is not enough; they play the game with living pieces ... and only the winner survives. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
(13 articles)
Film Review: ‘Altman’
 (From Variety - Film News. 20 June 2014, 9:00 PM, PDT)

Altman’s Unsung ’70s
 (From SoundOnSight. 20 January 2014, 1:50 PM, PST)

Robert Altman: The Hollywood Interview
 (From The Hollywood Interview. 15 February 2013, 1:43 PM, PST)

User Reviews:
Visually accomplished, daring film, about a world in death throes See more (60 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Paul Newman ... Essex

Vittorio Gassman ... Saint Christopher

Fernando Rey ... Grigor

Bibi Andersson ... Ambrosia

Brigitte Fossey ... Vivia, Essex's Wife
Nina van Pallandt ... Deuca (as Nina Van Pallandt)
David Langton ... Goldstar
Thomas Hill ... Francha (as Tom Hill)
Monique Mercure ... Redstone's Mate

Craig Richard Nelson ... Redstone
Maruska Stankova ... Jaspera
Anne Gerety ... Aeon
Michel Maillot ... Obelus
Max Fleck ... Wood Supplier
Françoise Berd ... Charity house woman
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Directed by
Robert Altman 
Writing credits
Robert Altman (story) &
Lionel Chetwynd (story) &
Patricia Resnick (story)

Frank Barhydt (screenplay) &
Robert Altman (screenplay) and
Patricia Resnick (screenplay)

Produced by
Robert Altman .... producer
Allan F. Nicholls .... associate producer (as Allan Nicholls)
Tommy Thompson .... executive producer
Original Music by
Tom Pierson 
Cinematography by
Jean Boffety 
Film Editing by
Dennis M. Hill 
Casting by
Luca Kouimelis 
Production Design by
Leon Ericksen 
Art Direction by
Wolf Kroeger 
Costume Design by
Scott Bushnell 
Makeup Department
Monty Westmore .... makeup artist
Production Management
Jim Kaufman .... production manager
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Charles Braive .... second assistant director
Tommy Thompson .... assistant director
Art Department
Stephen Altman .... property master
Stéphane Reichel .... assistant to art director
Andre Brochu .... construction supervisor (uncredited)
Sound Department
Sam Gemette .... sound editor
Robert Gravenor .... sound
David M. Horton .... special sound effects (as David Horton)
Richard Portman .... sound re-recordist
Hal Sanders .... sound editor
Special Effects by
Tom Fisher .... special effects
John Thomas .... special effects
Camera and Electrical Department
Andy Chmura .... assistant camera
John Daoust .... key grip
Robert Guertin .... assistant camera
Kevin O'Connell .... gaffer
Al Smith .... assistant camera
Paul Van der Linden .... camera operator
Costume and Wardrobe Department
John Hay .... wardrober
J. Allen Highfill .... costumer
Editorial Department
Jim Carter .... editorial apprentice
Raja Gosnell .... assistant editor (as Raja R. Gosnell)
William Hoy .... assistant editor
Richard Whitfield .... editorial apprentice
Music Department
Ted Whitfield .... music editor
Transportation Department
Peter Bray .... transportation coordinator
Melanie Johnson .... driver (uncredited)
Other crew
Victoria Barney .... project coordinator
Monique Champagne .... script supervisor
Elaine Di Bello Bradish .... assistant to producer
Dick Dubuque .... project accountant
David Fitzgerald .... assistant to producer
Ralph M. Leo .... project auditor
Patrice Ryan .... title designer
Rita Shaffer .... project manager
Ed Horwitz .... personal assistant: Robert Altman (uncredited)
Danièle Rohrbach .... production secretary (uncredited)
Crew believed to be complete

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Additional Details

Also Known As:
118 min | Argentina:116 min | Portugal:110 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.85 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:

Did You Know?

The movie was classified with a number of 18+ film censorship classification certificates around the world for its violence, a rare adults only classification for a Robert Altman film.See more »
Ambrosia:Trying to find a meaning where there is none? Death is arbitrary.See more »
Movie Connections:


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12 out of 16 people found the following review useful.
Visually accomplished, daring film, about a world in death throes, 23 November 2008
Author: oOgiandujaOo from United Kingdom

Quintet is a post-decline film, I use the word decline rather than (post nuclear) apocalypse as something quite a lot more gradual seems to have happened. It's not implicitly suggested that this film happens on earth, or suggested otherwise.

We have a snowbound pentagonal city, and we have a seal hunter Essex (played by Paul Newman) approaching the city from the infinite snowscape of the South. We have an almost bizarre quality of cast including Bunuel favourite Fernando Rey and Bergman regular Bibi Andersson. And we have a deadly game, Quintet. The game it seems is played both on a board and occasionally in the flesh so-to-speak (imagine if people tried to act out chess). Robert Altman even invented a real game of Quintet for the film, and apparently people still play it. It's clear that the game is vicious from the start, when we see a player manipulate pieces so as to arrange the "killing order"; also that there is a philosophy behind the game, individuals covet their pieces which are often high craft, and passed down as heirlooms (Altman had people finding curios in antique shops for this). The central driver of the plot is that Essex witnesses a murder and spends the whole movie trying to find why it happens and what it all means.

I would call the set for the film one of the "great movie sets". It's shot on the dilapidated remains of the Expo 67, or the Montreal World Fair from 1967, which was based on some partly man made islands in the Saint-Lawrence River. Expo 67 was a fairly enormous matter of Canadian pride back then, the housing development built to coincide with it "Habitat 67" is stunning (pictures can be got from google quite easily).

It is an example of the great genius of Robert Altman that instead of control freaking a script he went to Montreal and let the script fit itself around the deserted bewintered pavilions. One of the players, called Saint Christopher runs a mission for the feeble where he preaches all sorts of skewed dissonant religion. Behind him whilst he orates, we see a banner, clearly a relic from the Expo, "The Earth is the cradle of the mind, but we cannot live forever in a cradle". This is a quote from Konstantin Eduardovitch Tsiolkovsky, the father of Russian space exploration, and written in 1911, perhaps decorating some sort of planetarium originally. In the religious context relating to the afterlife in which Altman places it, it becomes phantasmagorical and bewitching (as does a photo collage in the main quintet hall). This is a true example of film aleatoricism, the film was already green-lighted before Altman had been anywhere near the Expo, originally the idea was to shoot in Chicago.

Another thing Altman makes an asset out of are his clearly wizened and ageing cast, it lends gravitas because the world of Quintet is one where no-one has been born in at least a generation, it's just something else that he made fit. One common complaint of the film is that the cast didn't have very good English. That is undoubtedly true, however I wasn't having very much problem with it myself. It goes to emphasise the estrangement of all the characters, it's right that they find communication difficult, one character smiles on hearing Essex use the word friend because he hasn't heard that word in a long time.

This film is very philosophical about the nature of existence and the directions we should take, however let me give you the big health warning that you will only get out of it what you yourself put in, hence the current 4.6/10 rating on the IMDb, it is not a film for the idling. One thing I also liked about it by way of image is that it was very much like a silent film. Altman in a great many of the shots has had Vaseline smeared around the edges of the camera to create that kind of cosy centring effect that you see in early silent films, ie. the oneiric lack or periphery. He's also enjoying the shooting of nature. It reminds me a bit of Sir Arne's Treasure (1919 - Mauritz Stiller), where a lot of the focus is simply on shooting nature, and also of the frozen alpine scenes you get in German bergfilms.

At the moment this film is available on R1 DVD via a four-disc box-set of Altman films. One extra bonus point for the set is it has a Quintet documentary with chat from RA himself. As regards what people have said of the Cold War, I didn't hear Altman mention it once, it's a film that works just as well now. Surely there were Cold War parallels, but in fact the film is utterly timeless.

I want to give you a further health warning that for those of you who are looking for a lot of plot and in depth characterisation, you will find in this film two hours of monotony, and it will also depress you. For me it's true genius.

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