Figura and Sally Kellerman (and a bunch of models)
in Pret-a-Porter (1994) in 1080p
Robert Altman's career path looks a bit like a roller coaster
From top to bottom, ranked by IMDb:
Player, The (1992)
Short Cuts (1993)
Gosford Park (2001)
McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)
Long Goodbye, The (1973)
3 Women (1977)
Vincent & Theo (1990)
Cookie's Fortune (1999)
Thieves Like Us (1974)
Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, The (1988) (TV)
Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982)
Wedding, A (1978)
Secret Honor (1984)
Brewster McCloud (1970)
California Split (1974)
That Cold Day in the Park (1969)
James Dean Story, The (1957)
Perfect Couple, A (1979)
Kansas City (1996)
Gingerbread Man, The (1998)
Fool for Love (1985)
Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson (1976)
Basements (1987) (TV)
O.C. and Stiggs (1987)
Dr. T & the Women (2000)
Beyond Therapy (1987)
His top seven films are considered classics. Four of them were made in his golden age from 1970-1975, the other three in Altman's 1992-2001 comeback. In between those fecund periods, the eighties were not kind to him, to say the least. Seven of his bottom nine were made in the 1979-1987 period. The other two were this film ( Prêt-à-Porter aka Ready to Wear), and Dr T and the Woman.
If Ready to Wear gets no respect from IMDb voters, it isn't likely to make it all up with love from critics or moviegoers, either. Rotten Tomatoes says there were 75% bad reviews, and it limped home with a $6 million domestic gross. About the only place where they sorta liked it was France, where it sold 666,000 tickets in a country with 55 million people - roughly equivalent in popularity to a $30 million film in the USA.
Although it is no classic, I don't know if Ready to Wear is all that bad a film. Its critical reception was negatively affected by unrealistically high expectations. Altman was coming off two of his top films and appeared to be back on top. He had savagely, incisively satirized the movie industry in The Player and he was expected to do the same to the fashion industry in Ready to Wear. Instead, he produced a rambling, disjointed kind of film with very little focus, and almost no bite. It did look beautiful and had some great technique. For example, some of his scenes involved placing actors in real, live fashion shows, incorporating the real events as background.
When Altman did get inside the fashion world, the movie was pretty interesting and colorful, although his satire lacked any teeth, but the great weakness of the film is that a lot of it has nothing to do with the fashion world at all. One of the many sub-plots involves two reporters (Julia Roberts and Tim Robbins) who get stuck in the same hotel room and end up making love for days. They could have been in a movie on any subject. In another peripheral story, Danny Aiello plays the part of a transvestite buyer. What the hell does that have to do specifically with the fashion industry? Altman just shoehorned Aiello's character into the fashion scene by making him a Marshall Fields buyer, but he didn't interact with any of the fashion people, so he could have been in town for a completely different purpose. Another (highly touted) sub-plot between screen legends Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren was also cobbled into a fashion context. Their story was generic, and could have been plugged just as easily into any industry from arms manufacturing to convenience stores.
I think there was probably a respectable 90 minute movie in that footage, but Altman ended up with kind of a bloated 133 minute film loaded with many detours, and some scenes which were too obviously improvisational. It's rated 5.0 at IMDb. That's probably too low. It isn't that bad.
But it isn't that good, either.
Griffith in Night Moves (1975) in 1080hd
On the surface, Night Moves follows all the basic conventions of a private detective noir.
1) The protagonist is an honest, world-weary man. Harry (Gene Hackman) works hard for his clients and has a sense of decency, but never makes much money because of that pesky sense of integrity. Like all his role models from the fiction of the 30s and 40s, he does exactly what he's hired to do and in return wants only his modest per diem plus expenses.
2) The detective starts out with a simple assignment which escalates into a complex criminal conspiracy. In this case, as in so many cinema detective stories, Harry is hired for a missing persons job and ends up involved in multiple murders and smuggling.
You have to figure that it's going to be more than a superficial private eye yarn, however, because the director of the film is Arthur Penn, who is now largely forgotten but was once a highly respected director. His filmography from the sixties and seventies is short, but impressive. Even the lowest-rated film on the list is an interesting failure.
The Miracle Worker (1962)
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Little Big Man (1970)
The Train (1964)
The Chase (1966)
Night Moves (1975)
Mickey One (1965)
Alice's Restaurant (1969)
The Missouri Breaks (1976)
Harry (Gene Hackman) is called to the swanky house of a former movie starlet. Her daughter (Melanie Griffith) is missing. Harry follows the trail, finds out that the daughter is a very lusty young woman who has proceeded from lover to lover, and each of her beaus has been somehow involved in the stunt work side of movie making. One is a mechanic, another a pilot, another a stunt coordinator. The trail is fairly straightforward, and leads to the home of the missing girl's stepfather in the Florida Keys. Harry brings her home. When all of that is resolved, you can look at your DVD player and see that 62 minutes of the film have passed uneventfully. That is all there is to the first two thirds of the movie. No special mystery, no dramatic tension, just a character-based missing persons case with some world-weary dialogue like this:
"I can't hear myself think."
"Nobody, but one side is losing slower than the other."
One strange event did happen during the first sixty minutes, but no special significance was attached to it. While out on a midnight swim with the missing daughter, on the night before taking the girl back to her mother, Harry encountered a submerged plane with the dead pilot still trapped inside. At the moment, that did not seem related in any way to Harry's case.
The last thirty minutes seem to be in a completely different film. Just a couple of days after Harry returns the runaway daughter safely to her mother, the girl is killed the course of a failed movie stunt - in a car driven by one of the people Harry met in his investigation. The car's mechanic is another guy (James Woods) Harry met on the girl's trail. Harry smells a rat. He is no longer on the case, of course. His job is done, and the check is in his pocket, but ol' Harry is the stereotyped honest movie detective, so he naturally reasons that the girl would still be alive if he hadn't brought her back to mom, and he just figures he owes her one.
This is where the film stops being an existential character sketch and becomes a true thriller. Once all the chess pieces are in place, the last half hour moves at break-neck speed. In addition to presenting a string of murders, the final act also explains what was happening behind Harry's back in the first part if the film, so there are 100 minutes of plot and red herrings packed into that last 38 minutes. As Harry retraces his earlier investigation, he finds that he had misinterpreted almost everything he saw, and had failed to see the connections between events that were related. Moreover, he regrets not having realized that many of the mother's and daughter's ex-lovers all knew each other, having worked together on various films. Of course, Harry could not have been expected to see all these things because everything seemed straightforward and simple: he found the girl he was supposed to find and brought her home. He had no reason to expect any foul play of any type, and yet he still feels responsible for the fate of the girl he "rescued."
The film finally turns the detective genre on its ear, because Harry manages to make absolutely nothing better with his involvement. As he retraces the investigation, the body count mounts. Everyone he suspects of having harmed the daughter soon turns up as dead as she is, but ol' Harry can do nothing about it, and just doesn't "get it" until it is too late. In the final analysis, he's not one of those masterful all-knowing 1940s movie detectives, but just a real guy like those of us in the audience. He generally can't see what's going on any more clearly than we can, he falls for the same red herrings that we fall for, and he ends up in just about the same predicament we would fall into if we were in his shoes. Harry is more like Jake Gittes than Sam Spade.
In fact, as you look back upon it after having watched the entire movie, you'll realize that the author did not really write a detective story at all, but simply used that old cinema chestnut to generate a soulful meditation on the nature of regret. I found Night Moves a rewarding film to watch, although it requires patience to obtain the full benefit from its patient mood-setting. At first, a sub-plot about Harry's marital troubles seems to be a major detour in the film's forward progress, and the first 62 minutes of the film can seem at times to be a very laborious and static process of character introduction. I was thinking, "I like it better when Dr. Evil simply calls his henchmen around the table and introduces them to one another, thus reducing all character exposition to about two minutes of monologue." Despite the languid pacing of that first hour, however, Night Moves doesn't really drag unbearably because the dialogue is clever, the characters are credible, and the film is sexy and sad. All of the things that seem most irritating at first - the marital struggles and the establishment of atmosphere - turn out to be some of the film's best elements once the audience adjusts its expectations.
While the plot and atmosphere are those of a 1940s detective noir, everything unfolds in a classic 1970s way, with a lot of kooky characters, discussions of relationships, and existential angst. In the background is the fact that Harry catches his wife cheating on him, and this more or less gives him permission to have a one-night stand with a woman in the Keys, specifically the skipper of the boat that finds the submerged wreck.
The grand finale of the film consists of one of the greatest action scenes I've ever seen, followed by a curiously lugubrious and maddeningly indefinite conclusion. Faux-Chinatown.
Edwige Fenech in The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh (1971) in 1080HD