McCabe and Mrs Miller

I’m a little embarrassed that I had never seen this. In fact, I had not even heard of it until I was leafing through a bad book of essays by Roger Ebert recently. I watched it as part of a double bill with ‘Nashville’ (which I had seen before) and really enjoyed it. The grittiness of the mining town (mud, rain, misshapen people) is done very well; ‘Deadwood looks downright slick against ‘McCabe.’ I had associated the less glamorous image of the West with Eastwood’s later Westerns (esp. ‘Pale Rider’) but Altman clearly got there first.

The principals were not particularly impressive. Warren Beatty mostly mumbles his way through the movie, looking bemused, and I’d say that Julie Christie was wasted except that I’m not sure if she can act (she raises banality to the level of an art form in the brief interview Peter Whitehead does with her in the Pink Floyd documentary that John mentioned a while back: “What do you love?” “The sun, sunflowers, cats… strong relationships”). But the strength of the movie is the background scenes. A young hired gun provokes a kid into drawing his gun and then kills him. Prostitutes enjoy a hot bath. Beatty boasts of his bargaining skills all the while showing his fear. And the final extended sequence is a masterpiece: the townspeople rush to put out a fire, oblivious to the cat and mouse game between Beatty and the gunmen hired to kill him. He slides around in the snow trying to hide while an early fire engine chugs up the hill to help put out the fire.

Anyway, well worth watching, not least to see so many actors who re-appear in ‘Nashville’ in larger parts. And of course, Keith Carradine was here and in ‘Deadwood.’