McCabe & Mrs Miller
John “Pudgy” McCabe is the archetypal gunfighter looking to get out from under his reputation. But he’s a sorry kind of a hero. Played by Warren Beatty in a shaggy bearskin coat, a suit and a bowler hat, he’s one of director Robert Altman’s rueful mumblers – like Marlowe in The Long Goodbye – misunderstood muddlers muttering asides into their sleeves. “I’ve got poetry in me,” he attests – though no one is there to hear it.
Arriving in the upstart Northwestern mining town of Presbyterian Church (shot just over the hill, near West Vancouver), McCabe is a gambler who sees a chance to establish a brothel – but he shows no head for business, is easily out-classed by Julie Christie’s Mrs Miller, and he’s plainly out of his depth when a big mining corporation sends in negotiators to secure its stranglehold on the local economy.
Echoing with the gentle lamentation of the late, great Leonard Cohen, whose songs play almost like a Greek chorus throughout, this is Altman’s first bonefide masterpiece, a landmark anti-western, a clear influence on David Chase’s TV series Deadwood, a film about capitalism more than it is a film about cowboys, and also, not incidentally, the greatest movie ever made in British Columbia.
The movie haunts you like a ballad whose tune you remember but whose words hang just beyond reach.
Charles Taylor, Salon
A beautiful pipe dream of a movie – a fleeting, almost diaphonous vision of what frontier life might have been.
Pauline Kael, New Yorker
Tender and lavish and remote… Mesmerically elegiac, McCabe’s muted, lapidary surface creates an intimation of lost possibilities and an aching that Altman has not since equalled.
Diane Jacobs, Hollywood Renaissance
July 16: Introduction from filmmaker Devan Scott
July 17: Introduction from filmmaker Nettie Wild
David Foster, Mitchell Brower
Robert Altman, Brian McKay