Wednesday, April 19, 2017

McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)

Director: Robert Altman

Writers: Edmund Naughton, Robert Altman, Brian McKay

Starring: Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Rene Auberjonois, William Devane, John Schuck, Corey Fischer, Bert Remsen, Shelley Duvall, Keith Carradine, Michael Murphy, Antony Holland, Hugh Millais, Manfred Schulz

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  Purveyors of Paradise.

Plot:  A gambler and a prostitute become business partners in a remote Old West mining town, and their enterprise thrives until a large corporation arrives on the scene.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably not.

Knowing only that this was a Western with Beatty & Christie and nothing else, I popped the disc in a few nights ago and watched the trailer first, which I don't usually do.  It was clear this was a different kind of Western and probably all drama so it wasn't right for me at that moment and I gravitated to a cheap Corman picture I'd never seen.  Last night it was quiet around the house so I pulled the 11' screen down and gave this one a go.  I was pretty luke warm about it until the final few minutes.  It's a slow burn that rarely picks up steam; you're just watching these characters in their environment.  The actors do a fine enough job.  There is one standout performance and that's by the 6'7" Butler, the leader of the killers hired to snuff out McCabe (Beatty), played wonderfully by Hugh Millais.  He's only got 10 movie/TV credits but he owned every scene he was in here.  Oh, yeah, and it's Keith Carradine's first movie and he's great which makes his tense moment on the bridge even more tense. The music is sparse and appropriate.  It's mostly all seen played on screen except for the three repeated Leonard Cohen songs which were not written for the film but seem to fit nicely with the dim look and feel of the movie. 

The art/set design and cinematography are outstanding.  This little town looks authentic and well lived in.  It's grimy, wet and you can almost smell it.  The same goes with the costuming and everything else that attributes to what you see.  The only thing that's lacking, if anything, is the story.  I would've liked more and if that means holding my hand a little through a scene or two, then so be it.  It just felt like there was a good chunk missing.  It's almost too simple as in you're telling a story about a man who's building a town and gets partway through only to have someone offer to buy him out.  He refuses so the buyers send someone to kill him.  End of story.  Oh, and along the way he hooks up with a prostitute to run the town brothel and she's a real working girl who even makes him pay for sex.  That's the gist of it.  The ending is very nice and I was really touched by what happens to both McCabe & Mrs. Miller and I didn't see either fate coming.  That was great.  I might watch this one day, many years from now and see how it plays, knowing what to expect.  This picture is slow (which is perfectly fine) and there are a lot of nice touches that alone make this worth watching (like when the two couples are dancing and they stop to watch the music player move to the next song).  One thing I didn't care for was the sometimes look of the film as if it were filmed in constant haze.  When the picture was clear of that it looked great.  The Warner Bros. DVD features the film in anamorphic widescreen (and so is the trailer, yay!).  The extras you get are the trailer, a commentary track with Altman and co-producer David Foster and a 10 minute vintage featurette (fullscreen).

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