Robert Altman’s One Long Film

Brilliant director and raconteur Altman gets the biography he deserves.

Book Cover Film (theatrical and television) director Robert Altman, auteur of some 40 movies (you know what I mean, the stuff that, during what may one day be referred to as America's Golden Age, was shown on very big screens in halls that held hundreds of people) was unarguably a titan of his chosen calling. What may be arguable is which of his films are his greatest achievements. M*A*S*H was the movie that gave Altman the opportunities and momentum to continue what may be called his directorial career. My personal favorites are his great anti-Western McCabe & Mrs. Miller and his riveting take on Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye.

For many reasons that become apparent as you read former Boston Globe reporter and current Boston University mentor Mitchell Zuckoff's splendidly well-assembled Robert Altman: The Oral Biography (Knopf), his use of an oral biographical process enlivens the larger-than-life boy from Kansas City who as a teenager during WWII became an Air Force bomber pilot. Zuckoff corrals an impressive ensemble of voices and characters, the likes of which include Meryl Streep, Warren Beatty, Tim Robbins, Julianne Moore, Paul Newman, Julie Christie, Geraldine Chaplin, Elliott Gould, Martin Scorsese, Robin Williams, Cher, Lily Tomlin, and on and on. And, incidentally, the book mirrors the quasi-cacophony (or overlapping dialogue as some describe it) of an Altman soundtrack.

Altman made amazing films, which Zuckoff's far-reaching interviews illuminate, and by all the included accounts, he led an amazing life--and here he accepts an Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement.
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