I Watched… (#27)

18 Apr


McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)

Robert Altman’s great western is not really a western at all. This is meant in the kindest way possible –  it is not quite ‘anti-western’ but it certainly doesn’t occupy the norms of a western or what you expect from one, there are however cowboy hats present.

It is set far away from the desert, in a snowy and remote town up in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. Gambler John McCabe (Warren Beatty at his best) moves into town and sets up a few businesses, the pearl being a new luxury brothel. This is where the prostitute Mrs. Miller (Julie Christie) comes in, taking over the running of the day-to-day business. Everything is going just swell until a large corporation wants a slice of the action.

By leaving traditional westerns behind, the whole film feels fresh and different to the rest of the genre. It is beautifully shot, dripping with atmosphere and accompanied by the moving Leonard Cohen soundtrack. The deliberate slow-paced nature of the film provides a chance to soak it all in, from the town and its varied characters, which are all naturally (and dimly) lit as the camera swoops in and rests, watching their lives go by.

It can feel a little too slow at times, but the brilliant and sometimes humorous script, along with the bubbling chemistry between McCabe and Miller, creates a unique western that will live long in the memory.



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