The life of Robert Altman over the course of his career as a filmmaker is told in roughly chronological order. It is presented largely through archival footage, including of his interviews and of his and his longtime wife Kathryn Reed’s home movies. It includes his rocky start in Hollywood as an aspiring screenwriter, which instead led to him working as a general filmmaker for an industrial film company. This work led to directing assignments for a number of television series back in Hollywood, where he butted heads with a number of studio executives and producers who did not appreciate his style of filmmaking in his desire to insert a sense a realism in whatever the project, that realism which includes hanging story-lines and overlapping dialogue, often in multiple equally important conversations in a single setting which forces the viewer to decide which conversation he/she wants to focus. This situation often led to him trying to achieve what he wanted either in not telling or flying beneath the radar of the studio executive and producers. Altman’s cachet in Hollywood took a meteoric turn upward with the film M*A*S*H (1970) which all other directors approached had turned down, it which ended up being a box-office smash and critically acclaimed, including winning that year’s coveted Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Over the remaining course of his filmmaking life which included some highs and lows (including a string of box office and critical failures in the late 1970s and early 1980s), he tried to instill a sense of of family among the cast and crew of his sets. Beyond his marriage to Kathryn, the personal side to the story includes his being father to a number of children and step-children who would enter into the business, and some health issues, one which ended up in him having a heart transplant of which he did not tell the public until ten years after the fact. Interspersed with the archive footage is a number of celebrities – actors who have worked in his films and contemporaries influenced by his work – who give their definition of the adjective “Altmanesque”. —Huggo
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