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Robert Altman
Keith Carradine, Karen Black, Ned Beatty
Writing Credits:
Joan Tewkesbury

Over the course of a few hectic days, numerous interrelated people prepare for a political convention.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 160 min.
Price: $24.99
Release Date: 8/10/2021

• Audio Commentary with Director Robert Altman
• “24 Tracks” Featurette
• Trailers


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-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Nashville (Paramount Presents Edition) [Blu-Ray] (1975)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 2, 2021)

After I watched 1975’s 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 couldn'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 seems a little deceptive, because it implies that all 24 roles receive equal treatment, and that becomes far from the truth. Although Nashville features no true leads, it's clear that some parts are favored above others, so 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.

In this film, all these parts intermix as part of the music scene in Nashville. While we get perspectives of various careers, we also follow the political career of an anti-establishment presidential candidate.

With Nashville, I could either provide the intensely brief synopsis I offered or I could run on for many paragraphs in an attempt to cover those 24 roles. We really don’t get a true plot here, so that short overview made sense to me.

The only truly unusual aspect of this movie comes from the way 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 plays a more pivotal role 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 film fails to explore any of the roles with anything that remotely approaches depth. Nashville presents 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, as 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, Altman succeeds in that way, but I don't think the movie as a whole stands up very well. It becomes more of a cool experiment than a compelling piece of work.

I think Nashville fails to deliver a great film mainly because it lacks depth. With so much happening, we never get 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 more than 45 years ago, as the impact the film made in 1975 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, as 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 Disc 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 absent.

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 seemed dark and dense, while low-light shots showed nice clarity. After more than 45 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, as 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 2021 “Paramount Presents” Blu-ray compare to the Criterion BD from 2013? Audio felt similar and likely identical, as I detected no obvious differences between the two DTS-HD MA tracks.

As for visuals, I no longer possess the Criterion disc, so I couldn’t directly compare the two. However, based on my notes and memories, I don’t believe viewers would find substantial differences between the images. The Paramount BD looked great, but so did the Criterion version, so one would expect they’d seem similar.

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 rather frustrating much of the time.

In addition to trailers for Nashville, Popeye and Urban Cowboy, we get 24 Tracks. In this 15-minute, 56-second featurette, we hear from Altman and production assistant Stephen Altman.

“Tracks” looks at the film’s genesis and development, story/characters, cast and performances, sets and locations, audio and music, and various production topics. This becomes a fairly engaging overview.

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

To rate this film, visit the prior review of NASHVILLE

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