The Play’s the Thing: Robert Altman in the 1980s

The Play’s the Thing: Robert Altman in the 1980s

This event has finished Took place on: Wednesday, 13th Oct 2021

 Free

Coronavirus: Events may be cancelled and venues closed at short notice, you are advised to check on their websites before making a trip.

This is an online video event, please check the organiser for details about how to watch.

Explore the less well-known (but not necessarily lesser) works of the great auteur director Robert Altman

Among the auteurs who emerged from the New Hollywood of the late 1960s and 1970s, Robert Altman - while not as famous as Scorsese or Coppola - continues to be one of the most critically admired, feted not only for his ground-breaking 1970s work such as M*A*S*H (1970), McCabe and Mrs Miller (1971) and Nashville (1975) but also for later films such as The Player (1992), Short Cuts (1993) and Gosford Park (2001). By contrast, his low-key 1980s output tends to be seen as less significant principally because the films he made represent a departure, in many ways, from his usual style and filmmaking practice.

In the fallout from his clashes with Hollywood studios, especially on Popeye in 1980, Altman spent ten years in exile in New York and Paris during which he directed a series of low-budget, independently financed, adapted plays. These films appear to stand apart from the director’s typical methodologies, not least because of their seeming fidelity to their sources. Yet, for all the financial strictures Altman suffered, he was as prolific as ever, directing eight features, five television films, one short in an anthology and an eleven-part television series. None of his peers, tolling away in Hollywood - a hostile environment for idiosyncratic filmmaking in the 1980s - came close to this level of productivity.

This talk examines this unique ten-year period, the films themselves and the circumstances in which they were made; in particular, I will be using primary source material from the director’s archives lodged at the University of Michigan. This research shows not only how funds were raised, how costs were often kept to a minimum but also reveals some fascinating insight in amongst the small details. One amusing example is an angry letter from Harold Pinter, no less, that entirely contradicts Altman’s own account of events surrounding his adaptation of Pinter’s plays for television.

The talk will also examine Altman’s aesthetic approach and how he was able to use cinematic means to energise the relatively static, seemingly faithful adaptations. Among the work discussed will be Altman’s most critically acclaimed eighties film, Come Back to the 5 and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982), the relatively unknown Streamers (1983), Secret Honor (1984), a one-man, one-room film from a play about an unhinged Richard Nixon, and the unloved and undervalued version of Sam Shepard’s acclaimed Fool for Love (1985), that starred the (reluctant) playwright himself.

Chris Horn is an independent film scholar who completed a PhD in Film Studies at the University of Leicester in 2020. Forty-plus years of cinephilia eventually led to this late-life academic study enabling him to write about, among other things, his longstanding favourite film directors like Altman. His doctoral research provided an alternative perspective on Hollywood filmmaking in the 1980s by examining the fortunes and films of the group of directors, ‘Hollywood Renaissance auteurs’, who emerged in the New Hollywood of the late 1960s and early 1970s, but whose careers are considered to have declined sharply in the subsequent decade. The project examined the challenges for auteurist filmmaking in a marketplace dominated by blockbusters and family friendly fare and focused particularly on Altman, Francis Ford Coppola and William Friedkin.

Please note this is going to be a Zoom webinar. You will not be invited to join with your cameras or audio, but can post your questions through the Q&A.

All those who book will be sent a link to join in an email from the library prior to the event.

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We look forward to welcoming you!


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This event has finished Took place on: Wednesday, 13th Oct 2021

 Free

Booking details and information at this website.

Reserve tickets at this website

Disclaimer: All information given is correct at the time of compiling the listings. Any questions about the event should be directed to the event organiser.

2021-10-13 2021-10-13 Europe/London The Play’s the Thing: Robert Altman in the 1980s Explore the less well-known (but not necessarily lesser) works of the great auteur director Robert Altman https://www.ianvisits.co.uk/calendar/2021/10/13/the-plays-the-thing-robert-altman-in-the-1980s-270908 ,,,

This is an online video event, please check the organiser for details about how to watch.

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