TORINO FILM FESTIVAL
(November 25 – December 3, 2011)
The festival will present the forty-odd feature films Altman directed for the silver screen and for TV (including Basements by Pinter, starring John Travolta; Secret Honor about President Nixon and the Watergate scandal; The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial) and a selection of TV series episodes he directed during his 50-year career.
The retrospective – which is curated by Emanuela Martini and also includes a book of essays and reminiscences published by Castoro – will be preceded by a broad-ranging photographic exhibit at the National Cinema Museum in the Mole Antonelliana.
Robert Altman, who was born in Kansas City in 1925, debuted in the mid-1950s with a film about juvenile misconduct (The Delinquents) and a documentary about James Dean (The James Dean Story). Then, for over a decade, he directed episodes of the TV series Bonanza, Combat!, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Bus Stop and Kraft Mystery Theater. In 1970, after making Countdown and That Cold Day in the Park, he directed M.A.S.H., the surprise winner of the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival. An explosive satire about the Korean War, M.A.S.H. flouts every dictate of traditional narration and contains all the elements of the bitter saga of a disillusioned, betrayed and bewildered America which Altman would return to in all his works. Altman takes the traditional genres – and, thus, the legends – of American cinema and puts them under the magnifying glass of his clear-eyed satire. The heroes of westerns (McCabe & Mrs. Miller; Buffalo Bill and the Indians), films noir (The Long Goodbye), gangster movies (Thieves Like Us), comedies (California Split; A Perfect Couple; Prêt-à-Porter), psychological and family dramas (Images; 3 Women; Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean; Fool for Love; Cookie’s Fortune) become more human and vanish into the throng of surrounding characters. His movie camera goes in search of elements and faces which usually remain in the background in classic cinema; soundtracks multiply and overlap; the number of characters increases, from M.A.S.H. to Nashville, A Wedding, The Player, Short Cuts, Kansas City, Gosford Park and A Prairie Home Companion, his last, melancholy and mordant masterpiece, which he made in 2006. Actors adored him and returned to work with him film after film, creating a sort of “Altman family,” Shelley Duvall, Elliott Gould, Donald Sutherland, Sissy Spacek, Keith Carradine, Julie Christie, Warren Beatty, Tim Robbins, Lily Tomlin, Tom Waits, Paul Newman, Vittorio Gassman, Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni, Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep and many others. Each film of his is a fresco of America’s disorientation when faced with the ruinous fall of the “Dream.” Stylistically, Altman was one of the great innovators of contemporary cinema and, more than just a director, he was one of the grand storytellers who depicted the America of the 20th century and, with foresight, of the end of the millennium.
by Ilaria Rebecchi