This documentary about the brilliant American film director, is an incentive to see some of his films again. Certainly Nashville, The player and Short cuts are worth revisiting, but I’ll pass on Prêt-à-Porter and Popeye. In all Robert Altman made 37 feature films between 1957 and 2006. Altman starts with the word Altmanesque which is an entry in dictionaries. Then throughout the film we see actors like Lily Tomlin, Elliott Gould, Sally Kellerman, the late Robin Williams, among others, give their own definition of Altmanesque. But there are no interviews with the people who knew him or worked on his films. Canadian documentary director Ron Mann tells the story through old video and audio interviews of Altman, most notably from The Dick Cavett show. The film could almost be called “Altman by Altman”. Other archival footage are used, like the Gene Shalit review of Popeye, or home movies from Altman’s archives, and of course, from the sets of his films. His wife and children were interviewed, but we only hear their voices. This peculiar choice means the director can concentrate on Altman and his films. As I said, it makes me want to see them again, or see those I missed. If Altman had a style, it could be called “casual naturalness”. The Meriam-Webster dictionary’s definition of “naturalness” is “carefree freedom from constraint”. In his career, Robert Altman always refused to compromise the independence of his artistic vision to the Hollywood machine. That is maybe his greatest legacy.

Rémi-Serge Gratton




 Directed by: 

Ron Mann
Screenplay by: 
Len Blum
95 min.
Rated 14A

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