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CRITERION

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Robert Altman
Cast:
Keith Carradine, Karen Black, Ronee Blakley, Ned Beatty, David Arkin, Barbara Baxley, Timothy Brown, Geraldine Chaplin
Writing Credits:
Joan Tewkesbury

Tagline:
The Home of Country Music.

Synopsis:
This cornerstone of 1970s American moviemaking from Robert Altman is a panoramic view of the country’s political and entertainment landscapes, set in the nation’s music capital. Nashville weaves the stories of twenty-four characters—from country star to wannabe to reporter to waitress—into a cinematic tapestry that is equal parts comedy, tragedy, and musical. Many members of the astonishing cast wrote and performed their own songs live on location, which lends another layer to the film’s quirky authenticity. Altman’s ability to get to the heart of American life via its eccentric byways was never put to better use than in this grand, rollicking triumph, which barrels forward to an unforgettable conclusion.

Box Office:
Budget
$2.200 million.
Domestic Gross
$9.984 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 160 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 12/3/2013

Supplements:
• Audio Commentary with Director Robert Altman
• “The Making of Nashville” Documentary
• Robert Altman Interviews
• Behind the Scenes Footage
• Keith Carradine Demos
• Trailer
• DVD Copy
• Booklet


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Nashville: Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] (1975)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 3, 2014)

After I watched Nashville, I tried to think of another film with an ensemble cast that even remotely rivaled the size of its group. While I'm sure there's one out there somewhere, I can't recall it. Tarantino offered a pretty big crew in Reservoir Dogs, for instance, but it doesn't compare with the 24 characters Nashville touts.

However, that number is a little deceiving, because it implies that all 24 roles receive equal treatment, and that's far from the truth. Although Nashville features no true leads, it's clear that some parts are favored above others; many of those 24 characters are barely acknowledged through the course of the tale. Many films feature 24 - or more - roles and don't make it out to be a big deal, unlike the pronouncements that Nashville concerns 24 "major" characters.

The only truly unusual aspect of this movie is that it does follow the different roles; while other pictures include that many parts, most of those participants appear in one or two scenes then are gone. After all, it's not like we consider Greedo to have a major part in Star Wars, even though he has more to do than many of the characters here. If he didn't get fried and he continued through the rest of the film - even in a very limited capacity - I guess you could make a different argument, and that seems to be the point made by the otherwise-illogical "24 major characters" assertions.

Despite that somewhat misleading bit of accounting, it remains true that Nashville does feature a larger main cast than just about any other movie, and it also lacks any true leads. While a few of the parts receive more screen time than others, I find no characters I would call the main focus of the film.

That's both a blessing and a curse. On the positive side, I find it interesting to see a movie with such a large and varied cast that truly doesn't favor anyone in particular. It's as democratic a film as you'll find, and one would assume that the broad nature of the group means there's something for everyone; at least you don't become tied down to one or two characters you may not like.

On the other hand, the variety means that the roles are not explored with anything that remotely approaches depth. Nashville is a scattershot film with a fair amount of improvised material. That shows throughout the movie as it doesn't present much of a coherent plot, and lots of the dialogue seems unpolished and stiff.

Fans of the piece would argue that's what makes it great; the natural flow of the story comes across as more real than the average film. I don't doubt that Nashville must have seemed fresh and new when it appeared in 1975; it used a form of "guerrilla filmmaking" that departed strongly from the norms, and director Robert Altman really tried to get a documentary feel to the whole thing.

For the most part, he succeeds in that way, but I don't think the movie as a whole stands up very well. It's more of a cool experiment than it is a compelling piece of work.

I think Nashville fails to be a great film mainly because it lacks depth. With so much happening, there's never enough time to explore anything in detail, so Altman's ambition outstrips his abilities. I get the feeling that many of the movie's fans are those who saw it when it premiered almost 40 years ago; the impact the film made must have been tremendous. However, what seemed creative and clever then doesn't necessarily feel that way now, and that's why I don't think it's a terribly interesting picture.

To be certain, I don't dislike Nashville, as it offers enough to keep me interested. However, the characters and the events never really go anywhere, which is kind of like the story itself; it just meanders along until it hits a semi-abrupt conclusion. The film seems to think it has some sort of grand point to make, but if that occurs, I don’t see it; there's some semblance of a thesis about fame and America, but it's not well thought-out and it becomes jumbled in the mish-mash of events.

Nashville deserves respect as a pioneer. Altman showed that movies didn't have to be as cut-and-dried as one might think, and that events can be depicted in a seemingly-illogical or haphazard manner and still work. He started a form of filmmaking that has been well-executed by later talents like Quentin Tarantino and PT Anderson.

However, the big difference between their works and Nashville is that their movies have stories, well-drawn characters, and compelling dialogue and situations. Nashville lacks all of those things. As such, I regard it as a seminal work but not a very interesting one in this day and age.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus B

Nashville appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a satisfying presentation.

Sharpness usually worked well. A few wide shots could be a smidgen soft – mostly due to deep focus – but the majority of the film came across as concise and accurate. No problems with shimmering or jagged edges materialized, and I saw no edge haloes. With a natural layer of grain, I didn’t suspect any digital noise reduction issues, and source flaws remained miniscule. When I saw defects – like a streak or a mark – they stemmed from the original photography and became unavoidable.

Colors tended toward a pretty natural palette and the Blu-ray replicated them fine. Some scenes seemed somewhat flat – mainly during interiors – but the hues were largely dynamic and full. Blacks semeed dark and dense, while low-light shots showed nice clarity. After almost 40 years, the image held up well.

In terms of audio, Nashville comes with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. This remix took the original stereo material and broadened it to a degree.

Much of the image stuck fairly close to the center channel, with the majority of the audio emanating from there. However, it could spread nicely to the sides, especially in regard to the music, which presented some fine stereo separation.

Effects and even a little dialogue also appeared in the side speakers at times, with occasional decent panning between them. The surrounds generally presented reinforcement of the front channels, but they did so effectively, especially the way they offered an echo of Walker's many political appeals.

Quality was inconsistent but acceptable. The dialogue fared the worst; it often seemed thin and flat, though it largely sounded intelligible. Whatever problems I had understanding the speech mainly fared from the many scenes with overlapping dialogue; the complexity of the situations contributed to this factor, not the actual quality of the material.

Effects were generally a bit bland and reedy as well, but they seemed acceptably clear considering the age of the recording. It's the music that definitely fared the best, as most of the songs sounded rich and clear. There's a little thinness to them because of age, but for the most part they appeared fairly dynamic and crisp, with some good low end at times. Without the strong quality of the music, this would remain a fairly average soundtrack, but the tunes elevate my grade to a solid "B".

How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD? Audio sounded warmer and fuller, while visuals came across as significantly better defined, cleaner and more natural. This turned into a substantial improvement in quality over the DVD.

The Blu-ray mixes old and new extras. Also found on the DVD, we get an audio commentary from director Robert Altman. He provides a running, screen-specific chat that often fails to satisfy, as this is a fairly spotty track that lacks a great deal of compelling information.

Altman provides a pretty basic telling of the making of the film but it doesn't include much depth. Mostly he talks about the loose nature of the production and relates how some of the actors got their roles, but he doesn't say much more than that. The commentary suffers from a pretty high number of blank spots as well. For dedicated fans of Nashville, the track merits a listen, but while Altman provides a few good nuggets of information, the commentary seems frustrating much of the time.

New to the Blu-ray, The Making of Nashville runs one hour, 11 minutes and nine seconds. It provides comments from assistant director Alan Rudolph, screenwriter Joan Tewkesbury, Altman’s widow Kathryn, and actors Keith Carradine, Ronee Blakley, Lily Tomlin, Michael Murphy and Allan Nicholls. The show discusses thoughts of Altman and working with him, research and the script, story and characters, cast and performances, audio and cinematography, editing and music, and the movie’s reception.

Expect a high-quality look at Nashville here. The documentary covers a nice array of topics and does so in a concise, informative manner. The show moves briskly and turns into an engaging piece.

Three components appear under Robert Altman Interviews. We find clips from 1975 (26:36), 2000 (12:30) and 2002 (7:50). Note that the 2000 chat appeared on the prior DVD but the other clips are “new” to the Blu-ray. Across these, Altman discusses aspects of the film’s origins and development, the movie’s structure, the cast, thoughts about other filmmakers and his various works, and basic Nashville facts.

Without question, the 1975 interview offers the highest-quality information. Altman remains pretty peppy throughout all three, but he seems most focused in 1975 and gives us the most astute overview of the different topics. All three are worth a look, though.

Behind the Scenes goes for 12 minutes, 33 seconds and offers raw silent footage from the set. We watch the shooting of a couple of different scenes. The absence of audio limits the material’s usefulness, but it’s still a decent glimpse of the production.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we get a Keith Carradine Demo. It runs 12 minutes, six seconds and shows still photos as we listen to early takes of “I’m Easy”, “It Don’t Worry Me” and “Big City Dreamin’”. It becomes a nice audio bonus.

Like all Criterion releases, Nashville comes with a booklet. Because I rented the Blu-ray, I couldn’t examine the booklet but I wanted to mention its inclusion.

While groundbreaking, Nashville isn’t very well-structured or interesting. I enjoy the movie to a mild degree, but it seems too consumed with the gimmick of juggling 24 characters without enough thought was given to creating a coherent, polished piece of work. The Blu-ray delivers good picture and audio as well as a selection of mostly interesting bonus features. I respect Nashville and like this release, but the movie continues to leave me somewhat cold.

Viewer Film Ratings: 5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main