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Winning Streak Blogathon - Robert Altman (1970-75)



Sometimes a film-maker really gets "in the zone", producing a stream of quality films in a row. Usually though a dud comes along to throw a spanner in the works. For example Spielberg gave us Duel, Sugarland Express, Jaws and Close Encounters only to have his run broken by 1941. John Carpenter had Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween, The Fog, Escape From New York and The Thing before Christine scuppered his streak. 


I've looked through the filmographies of my favorite directors and the longest unbroken run of top-notch work is the streak of seven films Robert Altman gave us between 1970 and 1975.

1970. Brewster McCloud
Hollywood will likely never again allow a film-maker the freedom Altman was afforded following the success of "MASH". This surreal tale of Bud Cort's quest to fly is set in an alternate reality Houston and will likely drive most viewers round the twist but I love this sort of stuff. 

1971. McCabe & Mrs Miller
The seventies saw some great revisionist westerns and this is one of the best. Like Corbucci's "The Great Silence" it's set in a snow-bound Colorado which adds to the haunting atmosphere. Features arguably Warren Beatty's best performance and a great soundtrack by Leonard Cohen.

1972. Images
Altman rips off Polanski in this creepy thriller which owes a lot to "Repulsion". Susannah York is brilliant as a housewife going nuts in the Irish countryside. It's twist ending has been ripped off a lot recently in films like "Black Swan" and "Kill List".

1973. The Long Goodbye
Along with the western, the detective movie was revised during this era. Altman casts Elliott Gould as Philip Marlowe who behaves like a man from the forties at odds with the madness of the seventies. Only in that decade could an actor like Gould become a superstar. Mark Rydell is one of the most genuinely scary villains you'll see.

1974. Thieves Like Us
Altman here casts his revisionist gaze on the gangster genre. In my opinion it's far better than the over-rated "Bonnie & Clyde". Make sure you have a bottle of Coke ready before you watch as it contains an insane amount of product placement for the beverage.

1974. California Split
The best movie about gambling ever. Gould is mesmeric as an easy-going gambler who befriends talented poker player Segal. The film is a brilliant examination of what happens when your life's passion loses it's meaning.

1975. Nashville
Simply one of the greatest films ever made yet somehow it seems to have disappeared into the cinematic abyss. Everything Altman aimed for over his career can be found in this one movie, set over a weekend in the title city and weaving over thirty character's lives together. He would later repeat the formula with "A Wedding" and "Short Cuts" but this is the original and best.