Robert Altman's Last Radio Show (2006)

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Robert Altman’s Last Radio Show: Directed by Robert Altman. With Marylouise Burke, Woody Harrelson, L.Q. Jones, Tommy Lee Jones. A look at what goes on backstage during the last broadcast of America’s most celebrated radio show, where singing cowboys Dusty and Lefty, a country music siren, and a host of others hold court.

“Have you ever been in a situation where you know a person who moves with grace? He or she may not be a particularly interesting person, nor even a bit of a soulmate. But you like to be near them because they move with such deliberation and beauty that they animate and enlighten the architecture, they bless the space you breath with your eyes. You look forward to your next meeting because you yearn that space.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eAltman is like that for me. He isnu0026#39;t about deliberation or noodling around with reality. Heu0026#39;s quite simply the most graceful, natural mover I know in cinema. And it isnu0026#39;t just his age, he started this notion as far back as u0026quot;McCabe,u0026quot; which I recently said was my favorite western when someone insisted on such a recommendation.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003ePart of his fluidity is a conviction that the art is in arranging the mix, the vortex, before that camera is unpacked. Once it happens, all he has to do is discover it as the actors push the space around. Its shocking what he does because it differs so much from the norm, which usually frames things spatially so the camera can see them.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003ePart of it has to do with the projects he chooses: meandering stories, folded and separate. Dozens of characters, perhaps. Sometimes, its not obvious, as when he wanders among suspects in u0026quot;Gosford.u0026quot; Garrison Keillor is a master storyteller, based on one trick, but what a trick! The whole show revolves around his fictional Lake Wobegon which by accretion in our mind is a place with dozens of characters, places and rituals that we know. Heu0026#39;ll start a narrative thread for few moments, toying with a certain foible, then as if he lost his focus, heu0026#39;ll take the tail of that morsel as a springboard for a different thread. It may seem to have a similar moral or not. It may have related characters or not. It may even involve a different time. The humor is in the lost threads, the jumps, the lucid fog.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eHis best rambles may span four of five of these and never return, deliberately never return. Its as if he starts with a treetrunk — the town and its collective zeitgeist — and follows a branch and then hops among leaves like a story squirrel.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eAltman is just the opposite. He starts with the leaves and by circumnavigating the crown of the thing he implies an arboreal being. With his birth and modeling films for example, that being isnu0026#39;t so interesting, instead its the grace of the squirrelu0026#39;s eye that amazes us.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eSo its no surprise that there is no Wobegon story here. This is Altmanu0026#39;s dance imposed on Keilloru0026#39;s. They both know it, and Keilloru0026#39;s role is one he does play in the radio show, as a sort of peg around which the Maydayers swirl.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eSo see this for the dance, the two master dancers but one dance. Along the way, youu0026#39;ll see Streep as you never have before. Sheu0026#39;s so effortless here. Its obvious that she created her character (and with the others, this is so). Her character is a swimmer in a sea of emotion. Sheu0026#39;s wet with stories, and we find that she was one of Keilloru0026#39;s. Its too sweet an idea, knowing what sort of an actor she is and how she applies a sort of iron-willed discipline to what she does which we donu0026#39;t notice because of her absolute commitment. But the world in the long run doesnu0026#39;t love these types.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eThey love the ones that jump in without a plan, that are broken from the last dive but leap again. Its a new Streep we see here. Leaves, wet with the tears of life, ready to fall as her storyteller lights past.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eTedu0026#39;s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.”


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