A grim and dirty slice of bleak frontier life rendered with extraordinary beauty. Robert Altman cast a decidedly deglamourized Warren Beatty and Julie Christie together with his stock company in this richly textured anti-Western, with the stated intent of destroying "the myths of heroism
in the Old West." The result is an atmospheric and resonant exploration of a small northwestern settlement in the middle of winter, with Christie as the thoroughly modern madam of a bordello and Beatty as the smaller-than-life hero.
Shortly after the turn of the century McCabe (Beatty), a man with a mysterious past, rides into a raw snow-covered northwestern wilderness settlement called Presbyterian Church. Here he gambles his way to some winnings and then establishes the community's first whorehouse. Initially a slapdash
collection of tents, it becomes a smoothly running business when the feisty Mrs. Miller (Christie) comes aboard as the madam and chief prostitute. She uses McCabe's money to construct a whorehouse that becomes the communal center of the growing town. Miners pour into the brothel-bathhouse, and
McCabe's success does not go unnoticed by the region's mining operators, who offer him $6,250 to sell out. McCabe, a business neophyte grown cocky with commercial triumph, refuses their offer. He's holding out for $15,000. Mrs. Miller warns her smart-talking partner that the company employs hired
guns to get its way but he intends to settle before things reach that state. This turns out to be a tragic miscalculation.
MCCABE AND MRS. MILLER is a sad and beautiful film that sides with the losers and dreamers. Beatty, in a courageous anti-star turn, is bearded, blustery and ignorant, but ultimately endearing. Christie is at least as good as the tough-talking, opium-smoking lady from the Continent who's smart
enough to know the real score. Altman makes extensive and effective use of Leonard Cohen's haunting ballads throughout the film and Vilmos Zsigmond provides sublime muted images of icy landscapes and warm interiors. Christie received a Best Actress Oscar nomination, but she lost to Jane Fonda for
KLUTE. Not an easy film to watch, but undoubtedly a great one.
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- Released: 1971
- Rating: R
- Review: A grim and dirty slice of bleak frontier life rendered with extraordinary beauty. Robert Altman cast a decidedly deglamourized Warren Beatty and Julie Christie together with his stock company in this richly textured anti-Western, with the stated intent of… (more)