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McCabe and Mrs. Miller

Screening on Film
Directed by Robert Altman.
With Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, René Auberjonois.
US, 1971, 35mm, color, 120 min.
Print source: HFA

“I got poetry in me.”

Robert Altman’s sweetest and saddest movie. And one of the few that can be truly called a love story. A gambler arrives in a small western mining town, with only one ambition—to open a really great whorehouse. He is a simple man, and a fool, but he is wise enough to enlist the help of a really great whore. Her cynicism is slowly overcome, as she realizes this man is for real: that after a lifetime of being nobodies, they can actually achieve something great together. But the world isn’t kind to visionaries—and especially not to gamblers.

Young Keith Carradine stumbles into the crossfire; various frontier weirdos stumble around at the edges of the frame, lost in their own obsessions. The mud is everywhere. The final shootout in the snow might be the least heroic shootout in Western movie history. Vilmos Zsigmond’s gorgeous, milky photography and the music of Leonard Cohen makes it all seem wistful, like a half-remembered tragic dream.

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