Everything you need to know about America and more
Release date: June 11, 1975
Director: Robert Altman
Who should watch this movie: People who “don’t like country music,” but love Dolly Parton and secretly listen to Golden Hour in the car. Anthropologists researching American iconography.
When should you watch this movie: During awards season. After your favorite films get snubbed at the Oscars.
The sell: Robert Altman has tapped into something true in Nashville. Something true about the United States, true about the 70s, and true about people. It’s not flattering, nor is it always fun to watch, but it’s true. This movie balances on a tightrope at staggering heights, stepping gingerly across comedy, tragedy, violence, and love, set to a marvelous soundtrack of original country songs and political diatribes shouted out of megaphones. Excavating meaning from Altman’s American snapshot has preoccupied film reviewers and theorists alike, but I believe that mystery is the point. The entropic nature of this ambitious production, stuffed to the brim with characters and inchoate storylines, is perhaps the most accurate rendering of “real life” brought to the screen in the last century. The hyper-realistic appears as over-the-top storytelling due largely to the omniscient camera. As an audience, we are used to being guided through narrative by an active lens, telling us when to focus and what to focus on. The limited frame condenses and simplifies our observations, allowing plot to shine through. Altman takes a different approach: showing not telling, observing passively everything at once. At first it feels overwhelming but, much like the sound of a tuning orchestra, the dissonant harmony settles into a familiar drone. “Meaning,” whatever that means, has little to do with Altman’s intention and everything to do with our own relationship to our reality, and how we see it reflected in Altman’s vision. Nashville is unlike any movie I’ve seen before, and will likely remain a unique point in the cannon for years to come. I realize I’m making this production seem really intense and serious, so I want to stress that it’s also really funny. Like absolutely hysterical. Ok, there’s not much more I can do to describe Nashville, you really just have to see it.