Combustible Celluloid
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With: Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Rene Auberjonois, Keith Carradine, William Devane, Shelley Duvall, Michael Murphy
Written by: Robert Altman, Brian McKay, based on a novel by Edmund Naughton
Directed by: Robert Altman
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 121
Date: 06/24/1971

McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)

4 Stars (out of 4)

The Cold West

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A year after decimating the war picture with M*A*S*H, master director Robert Altman took on the Western with this beautiful, wry story of a half-baked entrepreneur named McCabe (Warren Beatty) who attempts to set up a whorehouse in a frozen mining territory.

A savvy Englishwoman, Mrs. Miller (Julie Christie) comes along and helps him turn it into a real business with classy women, a clean establishment, and hot baths.

Unfortunately for McCabe, he falls in love with Mrs. Miller. He also angers a few powerful businessmen and winds up running -- actually, more like stumbling around in the snow -- for his life.

Altman and cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond present the film in grainy browns, as if the film were painted on a fence, and the endless white snow has never felt more textile, or more appropriate.

Altman and Brian McKay's dialogue registers in the murmur range, and everyone feels like they're keeping secrets. But Altman's feistiness comes through as well, as in the scene where McCabe visits a lawyer (William Devane) who promises to help him but ends up doing not a blasted thing.

This new DVD contains a gorgeous widescreen transfer and an original making-of documentary (donated by San Francisco's own film guru Gary Meyer). It's Altman's greatest film.

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