RIP, Robert Altman

I was at the reference desk this afternoon when I heard one student say to another, "Oh no, did you hear? Robert Altman just died." Then one of my colleagues stopped by the desk and asked if I’d heard. We both said words to the effect of "He’s one of my favorite directors ever." I watched A Prairie Home Companion a few weeks ago, and noticed that it seemed uncomfortably like a goodbye; maybe it looks that way more in retrospect. It’s hard to say what I love so much about Altman’s movies (I still haven’t seen all of them), but if I had to pick something, it would be his way of setting up a scene and then lingering unexpectedly on a face in it until you realize you’ve never fully seen a face before. There’s a strange sense of watching a quiet but incredibly rich moment in the character’s life, almost as if one were eavesdropping. Like Lily Tomlin sitting in the crowd in Nashville, or Emily Watson leaning back in the bathtub and smoking a cigarette in Gosford Park, or Neve Campbell playing pool in The Company, or practically every scene in the saloon in McCabe and Mrs. Miller, which is probably my favorite.

I think I’ll be watching McCabe and Mrs. Miller again soon. Rest in peace, Robert Altman, and thank you.

2 Responses to “RIP, Robert Altman”

  1. Jane Dark says:

    I know, I know. It was hard not to go off on a tangent about it with my students…

  2. Jeannette says:

    Oh no! I didn’t know.
    He’s one of my favorite directors ever!!
    I’m so glad they had that Altman tribute at the last Oscars. Who knew it’d be his last?