9-15 March 2009

March 21 2009 at 9:39 am (The list)

mccabeandmrsmillerposterMcCabe & Mrs Miller (1971)

Robert Altman toned down the manic energy of M*A*S*H for this ponderous drama about a businessman building a town in wintry northwest America at the turn of the twentieth century with the help of a brash madam with whom he opens a popular whorehouse. Warren Beatty is terrific as the titular entrepreneur, all bravado and no brains, but Julie Christie is even better as the cockney madam who walks it like she talks it despite harbouring a dark secret that we only discover in one scene. Tortuously slow and standoffishly cold, McCabe & Mrs Miller has solemn romance at its core – some of the more memorable scenes are of McCabe muttering to himself matter-of-fact statements of devotion as he pounds around his bedroom after a botched business deal, and Mrs Miller smiling fuzzily to herself as McCabe climbs into bed with her. Full of duality and contradictions – frozen landscapes cut to warm wooden interiors, Leonard Cohen’s sombre acoustic soundtrack rubs against light touches of comic relief, a desolate, patient narrative gives way to an exciting do-or-die third act – it struggles to find the right balance between bawdy and bleak, but its themes of endurance and survival give it the air of a prototype There Will Be Blood.


Rating: 4/5


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