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Robert Altman: Art and Soul (2004)

Video  -  Documentary | Short  -  20 April 2004 (USA)
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Title: Robert Altman: Art and Soul (Video 2004)

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20 April 2004 (USA)  »

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This featurette is available on the DVD for Fool for Love (1985). See more »

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References Persona (1966) See more »

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A Highly Satisfying And Stimulating Interview Provides Insights Into Director's Methods.
4 June 2006 | by (Mountain Mesa, California) – See all my reviews

Any composite portrait of Robert Altman's aesthetics must utilize the many insightful comments from within this effectively crafted documentary comprised of his portion of an interview, produced and directed by film documentarian Greg Carson when Altman was in his eightieth year, nearly 20 years after FOOL FOR LOVE was released; happily, due to the director's candour, he views in retrospect the cinematic transfer of Sam Shepard's play with the clear focus of an established auteur. Carson's well edited footage is a welcome special feature specifically created for MGM's fine 2004 DVD version of Shepard's intense theatrical piece that has nary a dull moment to it. Altman describes here, frequently as voice-over during clips from the film, why he chose the play for filming along with his reason for refusing to check players from their native role interpretations for, as he states, "The actor is the artist." He continues in this vein, stating that performers instinctively know more about the purpose of their roles than does a director, and when the latter attempts to formulate a part for a cast member, the players "become emoters, not actors." Speaking of himself, Altman realizes that he has become mechanically improved without enjoying complementary artistic gain, due to the "soul" of an artist, established early on, being constant. During his straightforward and generally literate monologue, he divulges that he has learned it is not easy to avoid "imitating yourself", and goes on to reveal that Ingmar Bergman's PERSONA has been his constant model. Altman designates the original play as being one having a feeling of open space and therefore, as a result of this "cinematic look", it is easily opened up for the screen, as indeed occurs in a desert region directly outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he and Shepard each resided at the time of production. Interestingly, the motel complex that forms the entire set for FOOL FOR LOVE, and constructed for the film, is so realistic that travellers commonly attempted to find lodging there, and to eat at its café. Altman modifies Shepard's linear narrative, combining flashback technique with real time in surreal fashion because, as he recognizes that the principal characters are lying to each other, he retains the original text while altering the visual sequences, "since most things retold are not the truth." "Everything was incestuous", he adds, and while recounting the ending, he opts for the term "stopping place" since there are no endings in real life "until we are ended." This short (20 min.) film is an invaluable supplement to Altman' s superior body of work, and is up to Carson's high standard of cinema documentation.


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