January 3, 2018
and weave it on a loom
of smoke and gold
of smoke and gold
The image is from Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller released June 24, 1971. It’s gorgeous Julie Christie toking in an opium den.
Film Facts 1
- Carpenters for the film were locals and young men from the United States, fleeing conscription into the Vietnam War; they were dressed in period costume and used tools of the period, so that they could go about their business in the background, while the plot advanced in the foreground.
- For a distinctive look, Altman and Zsigmond, the cinematographer, chose to “flash” (pre-fog) the film negative before its eventual exposure, as well as use a number of filters on the cameras, rather than manipulate the film in post-production; in this way the studio could not force him to change the film’s look to something less distinctive.
- Pauline Kael wrote: The classical story is only a thread in the story that Altman is telling…The people who drop in and out of the place—a primitive mining town—are not just background for McCabe and Mrs. Miller; McCabe and Mrs. Miller are simply the two most interesting people in the town, and we catch their stories in glimpses, as they interact with the other characters and each other… Lives are picked up and let go, and the sense of how little we know about them becomes part of the texture; we generally know little about the characters in movies, but since we’re assured that that little is all we need to know, and thus all there is to know, we’re not bothered by it. Here we seem to be witnesses to a vision of the past.
- The three Cohen songs used in the film were The Stranger Song, Sisters of Mercy and Winter Lady. (The title is from the chorus of Winter Lady.)
- Altman had Lou Lombardo, the film’s editor, use the music to maintain a rhythm for the film (in effect using it as a “temp” track). He later said, “I think the reason they worked was because those lyrics were etched in my subconscious, so when I shot the scenes I fitted them to the songs, as if they were written for them.”
- Scott Tobias wrote in 2014 that The film is unimaginable to me without the Cohen songs, which function as these mournful interstitials that unify the entire movie.
- Julie Christie’s performance was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. Vilmos Zsigmond’s cinematography received a nomination by the British Academy Film Awards, and the film’s screenplay garnered a Writers Guild of America nomination. Greeted with muted praise upon release, the film’s reputation has grown in stature in the intervening years.
- In 2010, McCabe & Mrs. Miller was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”.
1 The information in the Film Facts came from Wikipedia.