Robert Altman is one of the most inventive, unpredictable, and
hotly debated American filmmakers of the past thirty years. His
movies include popular hits (M.A.S.H., Nashville), critical
successes (Thieves Like Us, The Long Goodbye, Short Cuts), and
outright disasters (Beyond Therapy). Through triumph and
tribulation alike, Altman has never lost the experimental spirit
that brought him into feature filmmaking after twenty years of
refining his talent on industrial movies and TV episodes. He also
has maintained a gregarious, often garrulous nature, rarely missing
an opportunity to discuss his work, life, and ambitions with the
many critics and scholars who have plied him with questions
throughout his career.
The lively interviews in this book, drawn from a wide variety of
sources, range from a colorful talk with Altman as he prepared an
early foray into the western genre (McCabe and Mrs. Miller) to a
mid-1990s conversation about the challenges of blending jazz and
cinema in Kansas City.
The interviews probe the many corners of Altman's work,
including his epic battles with Hollywood studios and producers,
his deep commitment to independent production, his creative views
on video and stage-to-screen adaptation (a major facet of his
career), and his insistence that he is more an audiovisual artist
than a storytelling entertainer. Altman's conversations cast light
on his idiosyncratic personality, revealing his taste for
intoxicating experiences both on and off the screen and suggesting
links between his risk-taking behaviors at the gambling table and
the motion-picture set. This collection of interviews is a
first-person portrait of a true American maverick whose
freewheeling career has waged a decades-long campaign against
Hollywood complacency and served as inspiration for new generations
of independent screen artists.
David Sterritt has been film critic for The Christian Science
Monitor since 1968. He is an associate professor of film at Long
Island University and the editor of "Jean-Luc Godard: Interviews"
(University Press of Mississippi).
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