For Reel

Nashville (1975)
August 21, 2016, 12:28 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Robert Altman
4.5 Stars
NashvilleNashville is a film of alarming contradictions, imagining America as a nation at war with itself and yet holding off on an intervention with blind optimism. The songs of the film reflect this notion—how can one stomach lyrics like “I pray my sons won’t go to war but if they must they must” or “We must be doing something right to last 200 years” as a tribute to patriotism and not blind naïveté? The great thing about Robert Altman’s film, however, is that if there is an undeniable cynicism in the way things play out, there is no sensationalizing of the details. It’s a tonally complicated film precisely because the only tone Altman is concerned with capturing is what it felt like to be in Nashville in 1975. When performers take the stage the Grand Ole Opry house, the performers and the crowd are given equal importance—it is impossible to ignore fans shuffling in and out of the theater during Henry Gibson’s performance, whereas many filmmakers would have insisted on falsifying their united interest in the music. The cumulative ironies make the film a darkly funny one at times in a way not unlike a Christopher Guest improvisation, but the situations that are inherently humorous can’t overcome the fact that they are desperately sad and hopeless (Ronee Blakely’s on-stage banter seamlessly transitions from endearingly awkward to a woman having a breakdown in a hurry). If Nashville is almost overwhelming in scope, these consistent themes of contradictions and hopes being pitted against realities is a powerful through-line that substitutes for the need of a traditional narrative.

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