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The Long View: A Celebration of Widescreen

Wednesday, July 23, 2008
7:30 p.m. McCabe & Mrs. Miller
Robert Altman (U.S., 1971)

Far from the open plains of the classic Western, Robert Altman and cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond created a radical and ravishing vision of the turn-of-the century Pacific Northwest, capturing the sodden grit of frontier life with impressive authenticity. The camera lingers below the horizon to take in the physical and social textures of the skeletal town of Presbyterian Church, where hustler McCabe (Warren Beatty) and Cockney madam Mrs. Miller (Julie Christie) form a partnership to provide the services most needed by the local population: hot baths, booze, gambling, and whores. Their enterprise soon attracts the attention of bigger business interests prepared to call McCabe’s bluff; the climactic confrontation is not a showdown at high noon but a shambling pursuit through a blizzard. Viewers of Deadwood will recognize many inspirations here—the town evolving out of the muck, the lushly grungy sepia interiors, Keith Carradine.

—Juliet Clark

• Written by Altman, Brian McKay, based on a novel by Edmund Naughton. Photographed by Vilmos Zsigmond. With Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Rene Auberjonois, Shelley Duvall. (120 mins, Color, ’Scope, 35mm, From Warner Bros.)