In honor of AFI FEST’s inaugural retrospective, this year centering on American auteur Robert Altman, we asked FEST filmmakers to name their favorite Altman film, or the Altman film that has been the most influential to them. Three films emerged as the clear favorites: 3 WOMEN, NASHVILLE and SHORT CUTS. These titles — plus nine other brilliant films — are playing as part of the festival’s Altman retrospective.
Valerie Massadian (MILLA)
If I have to pick one Robert Altman film, then it will be 3 WOMEN.
I still have images in mind, and maybe more than images, a ghostly anxiety. [Shelley] Duvall and [Sissy] Spacek’s personalities, as two sides of one personality, their obsession, their transfer, the incapacity of belonging socially. But also because of how the film moves from real to surreal, the way it floats, the strange, twisted, sometimes funny, always ambiguous frictions in women’s relationships. And all of that in a certain claustrophobia, enhanced by the over-perfection of ‘70s aesthetics.
Andrea Pallaoro (HANNAH)
My favorite film by Robert Altman is 3 WOMEN.
3 WOMEN had an indelible influence on my own approach to filmmaking for its riveting and complex psychological study of its central female characters played by Sissy Spacek and Shelley Duvall, whose extraordinary and layered performances are simply unforgettable. Through a rigorous cinematic language, Altman creates an atmosphere and a world that vividly reflect certain complexities of the human subconscious while at the same time allowing the individual spectator to have his/her own very personal relationship with the characters. A masterpiece.
Carla Simón (SUMMER 1993)
SHORT CUTS – Robert Altman and Raymond Carver are an amazing combination that could only turn into a great film! The cast is superb and I always enjoy seeing Tom Waits acting. What I find fascinating is the complex narration of these 22 characters’ stories and how, without telling much, only few words, gestures and details, the audience can guess the whole character’s world.
Noël Wells (MR. ROOSEVELT)
SHORT CUTS – This film inspires me on several levels. The cast is incredible, with my favorites [being] Lily Tomlin, Frances McDormand and Tom Waits, and I always flash to Julianne Moore’s performance when I think about what I want to be as an actor. As for filmmaking, I always love when stories dovetail and paths cross, and this is my touchstone for its darkly humorous social and economic commentary.
Antonio Méndez Esparza (LIFE AND NOTHING MORE)
It is a challenge to choose one film by Mr Altman. If any, I may pick as a personal favorite NASHVILLE, for the enormity of the endeavor, the depiction of different lives, for the moral complexity, for the layered politics present in the film, and the candor, and tender love he shows for all characters (over 20!), with a camera that seems invisible, and always capturing an escaping present tense. A film about “everything” that is an absolute triumph.
Matt Porterfield (SOLLERS POINT)
It’s hard for me to choose a favorite among Altman’s ‘70s films, but I’m enamored with the way he weaves together the rich ensemble of characters in NASHVILLE. All the actors come together and harmonize like a group of great session musicians. The resulting tone is a strange balance of tragedy and humor. I followed his lead when crafting the musical performances in my own melodrama, I USED TO BE DARKER, recording them on location and allowing each song to play out in duration, punctuating and amplifying the narrative and emotional line.
AFI FEST’s entire Robert Altman Retrospective can be found on our online Film Guide.