Robert Altman learned his craft in Kansas City, making industrial films for the Calvin Company. When he moved on to TV, his expertise set his work apart. In Hollywood, he revolutionized the industry as a persistent enemy of the studio system and conventional filmmaking. Nominated for five Academy Awards as a director, he was awarded an honorary Oscar that recognized "a career that has repeatedly reinvented the art form and inspired filmmakers and audiences alike."
The Kansas City Public Library celebrates the life and career of Robert Altman with Unscripted throughout November 2009. Monday films are shown at 6:30 p.m., Saturday films are shown at 1:30 p.m.
M*A*S*H (1970) on November 2. A critical and commercial break-through about a U.S. Army hospital in Korea, this film established the Altman aesthetic: improvisation, unique camera shots, and overlapping sound and dialogue. Starring Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, and Robert Duvall. Earned the Palme d’Or from the Cannes Film Festival and Oscar nominations for Best Film and Best Director. Rated R. (116 min.)
McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971) on November 7. Altman redefines the Western genre in this tale of a frontier gambler (Warren Beatty) and a madam (Julie Christie, in a performance that earned an Oscar nomination) whose inspired partnership sustains them and their ramshackle community. Rated R. (120 min.)
The Long Goodbye (1973) on November 9. This surprising adaptation of the Raymond Chandler classic replaces the original dark hard-boiled imagery with sunny Southern California – where the protagonist detective (Elliott Gould) is obviously out of place. Rated R. (112 min.)
California Split (1974) on November 14. A true character study, this film follows the exploits of two dedicated and degenerate gamblers (Elliott Gould and George Segal) as they endure debt and drunkenness in their pursuit of a winning streak. Rated R. (108 min.)
Nashville (1975) on November 21. Altman and his camera are fixated on the American country and western scene in this satirical musical comedy. Its reeling ensemble cast includes Shelley Duvall, Ronee Blakley, Keith Carradine, and Lily Tomlin. Earned Oscar nominations for Best Film and Best Director; won for Best Song. Rated R. (160 min.)
Short Cuts (1993) on November 23. Inspired by the short fiction of Raymond Carver, Altman earned an Oscar nomination for this examination of several seemingly random L.A. characters whose stories sometimes connect. This film opened the 1993 New York Film Festival and its ensemble cast won both a Golden Globe and a Grand Prize from the Venice Film Festival. The cast includes Tim Robbins, Frances McDormand, Andie MacDowell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Matthew Modine, and Robert Downey Jr. Rated R. (184 min.)
Gosford Park (2001) on November 28. Altman delivers a masterful British murder mystery set on a country estate in 1932 while subverting the genre in order to transcend it. The star-studded cast includes Kristin Scott Thomas, Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, and Ryan Phillippe. Rated R. (137 min.)
A Prairie Home Companion (2006) on November 30. Working from a screenplay by Garrison Keillor, Altman presents the backstage antics and other dramas surrounding the final broadcast of the popular radio show. The cast includes Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Tommy Lee Jones, Lindsey Lohan, and Virginia Madsen. Rated PG-13. (105 min.)
Unscripted: The Films of Robert Altman runs in conjunction with a November 16 presentation by Mitchell Zuckoff, author of a new biography about the director titled Robert Altman: The Oral Biography.