Nine short stories relocating the settings from Carver's Northwest to Los Angeles during a spraying of malathion brought on by a Medfly epidemic - intercut tales of disconnection and emotional emptiness. The stories concern variations upon the theme of Los Angeles angst --a happily married couple, Ann and Howard have to deal with the deep emotions felt when their child, Casey is struck by a car before his birthday and lapses into a coma, while the baker Andy of their child's neglected birthday cake sinks into a rage and torments them in their grief. Three men Stuart, Gordon and Vern leave on a much anticipated fishing trip, only to discover the drowned body of a nude woman floating in the river and decide to finish their fishing trip and ignore the corpse. A Los Angeles cop, Gene uses his badge as an excuse to cheat on his wife, Sherri. A pool cleaner Jerry resents his wife, Lois for her part-time job as a phone sex performer. A waitress, Doreen is devoted to her limousine driver ...Written by
In front of a group of fishermen, a waitress bends over for a slab of butter. They take in the image like hungry wolves gulping meat, as her skirt rises high, revealing everything. They like what they see, so they ask her, `Can we have more butter, please?' The double meaning is obvious.
In a nightclub, a singer languishes over a sultry little song about `a good, punishing kiss.' The conversation in the foreground -- ex-cons relating cruel, violent stories from prison -- moves to the rhythm of the jazz saxophone, a dissonant snare-drum-prose accompaniment to the song. It's a deliberate ambiguity that binds the viewer in the scene's artistic tension.
In an upscale home with a breathtaking view of the city of angels, a struggling artist is being questioned about her relationship with another artist. She's naked from the waist down, suggesting both sexual aggressiveness, and vulnerability, simultaneously. She's seductively defiant with her husband. She confesses to an affair; but she does so angrily, indignant for being asked. It's sweet and sour, light and dark, truthful but deceptive, all at once. More double entendres.
Robert Altman's Short Cuts weaves all these disconnected scenes together like common strands of rope. It's the interplay of opposites that firmly holds them all together. The title itself, `Short Cuts,' has dual meaning: it's an interconnected mixture of `short cuts,' as in `off the cutting room floor' or `film clips;' and, it's an unmistakable reference to the web of human life, the social short cuts between ourselves and everyone else, as in the famous `six degrees of separation,' which tells us that we are only six personal relationships away from everyone else in the world. Set in LA, this idea makes for a lovely irony: although the main characters are completely absorbed in their individual worlds, they are intimately connected to each other. They just don't know it.
Short Cuts is one of Altman's masterpieces. See it if you can.
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