Monday, February 7, 2011

McCabe & Mrs. Miller: A Video Essay

Since we have such a slew of interesting new movies being released these days (please note I cannot write with the Sarcastica font), one of the new aspects on this blog will be video essays about movies from the past. We are about to approach the 40th anniversary of the release of Robert Altman's western "McCabe & Mrs. Miller" in June. Remember when serious movies were released in the summer?

This essay has some of my thoughts about the film when I watched it not too long ago. Please note that there are some SPOILERS, particularly past the 10 minute mark. Then again, if you haven't seen the movie yet, then you probably should.

1 comment:

Craig said...

A fabulous return. McCabe & Mrs. Miller is not only a great movie, but it's always been an inspiration for great criticism. Roger Ebert emphasized the importance of the ampersand in the title -- it's "&," not "and" -- noting that the titular characters have primarily a business partnership and little more. Charles Taylor loved the way the opening critics appear from the side of the screen while McCabe treks through the wilderness, as though being discovered for the first time. Pauline Kael called it "a beautiful pipe dream of a movie," one of her most succinct descriptions ever.

In your piece, among other things, I particularly like the comparisons between McCabe and Deadwood. David Milch once said that Deadwood was about the community "being the body of God," and how each of those parts comes a stronger sense of identity -- of something larger than themselves -- over time. Altman wouldn't have put it in quite so spiritual terms (Milch is sort of a born-again liberal evangelical), but what he's depicting in McCabe & Mrs. Miller is essentially the same thing: underscored by the preserving of the church, and by the killing or marginalizing of the two individuals whose personalities were the most forceful and distinctive in the whole town.