: : : McCabe & Mrs. Miller

Story

Iconoclastic director Robert Altman (Nashville, M.A.S.H.), deconstructs and demythologizes Hollywood's typically romantic vision of the Old West in this haunting, breathtaking masterpiece. A stranger, McCabe (Warren Beatty's best performance), the film's nonheroic protagonist, rides into a dead northwest mountain town (to the mournful sounds of Leonard Cohen), possessing ambitious entrepreneurial dreams of expansion. As the town grows, Mrs. Miller (Julie Christie's finest role, as well), a tough madam, arrives and convinces McCabe to join her in a partnership. Neither are typical Western archetypes: McCabe's an insecure braggart, bumbling lover, and horrible businessman, while Mrs. Miller, hardly a whore with a heart of gold, favors her opium pipe to her partner's romantic advances. Altman, meanwhile, buries these central characters within the town's complex, richly detailed tapestry of characters, preferring to eavesdrop on their overlapping conversations and study the bleak, harsh conditions of their lifestyles. At its core, the film addresses the sacrifices of individualism needed in order to build a community, an American concept that the independent Altman views with skeptical irony. The inevitable final shoot-out underscores the theme. Because McCabe refuses to sell the town he built to a corporation, hired bounty hunters are sent. Instead of a showdown at high noon, the finale--one of Altman's most beautiful set pieces--takes place in the snow, guerilla warfare style. As McCabe runs and hides for his life, the town he created preoccupies itself with saving a burning church instead of their creator, while Mrs. Miller, stoned and grinning, detaches herself from either concern. Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond captures the town's brutal textures in luminous Cinemascope, which, sadly, is transformed into ugly murk on the nonletterboxed video version. Widescreen laser discs are available, however. --Dave McCoy

DVD Features

  • Available subtitles: English, Spanish, French, Japanese, Portuguese
  • Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 2.0), French (Dolby Digital 2.0)
  • Commentary by director Robert Altman and producer David Foster
  • Behind-the-scenes documentary

Cast

Warren BeattyJohn McCabe
Julie ChristieConstance Miller
Rene AuberjonoisSheehan
William DevaneThe Lawyer
John SchuckSmalley
Corey FischerMr. Elliott
Bert RemsenBart Coyle
Shelley DuvallIda Coyle
Keith CarradineCowboy
Michael MurphySears

  • Genre: Western
  • Theme(s): Wild West
  • Director: Robert Altman
  • Producer: Warner Brothers
  • Length: 120 min
  • Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
  • Theatrical Release
    North AmericaJun 24, 1971
  • Ratings
    North AmericaR
    Europe15
  • DVD Release
    North AmericaJun 4, 2002
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