The Western, or as Altman had put it, the anti-Western, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, ranks amongst the finest achievements for the maverick filmmaker, and it came at the most creative phase of his career when he was at the forefront of an audacious and iconoclastic wave in American cinema. Rarely has a Western been so meditative in its tone, so hypnotic in its pacing, and so notably devoid of heroism and chivalry, making this a splendid deconstruction of the iconic genre as well as an absorbing watch – or, as Pauline Kael had so memorably opined, “a beautiful pipe dream of a movie”. John McCabe (Warren Beatty), a mysterious and reclusive man, is a businessman with plans to set up a fancy brothel in a small town, and Constance Miller (Julie Christie), a madam with sharp business acumen, joins him in this enterprising venture. However, his success begets enemy in the form of a mine owner who, upon being turned down when he offers to buy him out, lets loose vicious killers to bring him down. Unlike as expected, McCabe is anything but a gun-slinging valorous person, despite his reputation suggesting so, thus taking the movie to a grimy, unspectacular, decidedly realistic, and ultimately fascinating struggle for survival. The film’s elegiac and dream-like feel, and improvisational storytelling, were wonderfully complemented by incredibly nuanced and understated performances by Beatty and Christie, and terrific songs by Leonard Cohen laced with melancholia and nostalgia. The dark underpinnings of organized business and capitalism formed a key theme of this sadly beautiful movie.
Director: Robert Altman
Genre: Drama/Western/Revisionist Western