I’ve warmed considerably to Robert Altman since I started the list. That said, however, the concept of a three-hour film of his was not all that high on my wish list of films to see. Nevertheless, Short Cuts stood with its imposing figure over my night’s watch tonight, and I seem to have developed a “jump in the deep end” mentality to get through these longer films that would serve me well here. In the end, Short Cuts ends up treading way too familiar ground, what with Altman’s earlier film Nashville being essentially the exact same film set in a different city, but this was still enjoyable in its own way, I guess.
In case you didn’t see Nashville, don’t worry; there’s no real plot to that one, and there’s no real plot to this one either. What it is is a menagerie of characters, all inter-connected in interesting ways, living in a specific area and thus providing a pastiche on the area as a whole. Here, this time, the area is Los Angeles, and not just the Hollywood industry aspect that was lampooned in The Player; this is as wide-encompassing a portrait as a film can get, and seeing it needed three hours to do it is not surprising in the slightest, especially in hindsight. Befitting the massive cast of characters and the inter-weaving of storylines, this is a hard one to follow, to put it lightly. I think I can say that if it weren’t for frequent double-checking with the Wikipedia article for the film, I would not have known half the connections between the cast or been able to keep the ones I did know straight, but I kinda get the feeling from the film that that’s almost the point of it all. Still, for a formula such as that, I don’t think anyone does said formula better than Altman; this was a shade below Nashville for me, but it was still good. What Nashville had that this one seemed to lack, however, was an ultimate goal or purpose to the proceedings. With Nashville, there was the presidential rally that everything was leading towards; here, there’s merely an inconsequential event at the end that serves as a blunt bookend to all of the stories, and that’s about it. It takes up three hours of our lives, and then… just ends. It was a nice way to spend three hours, but I don’t think there’ll be any reason to spend another three on it.
I’m actually surprised that the only Oscar nom this got was for Altman as director, and not for the screenplay; to combine nine short stories (and a poem) into a single film is a heck of an achievement, and to have it come off as rapid-fire and multi-layered as it was in the film was pretty impressive, if indeed the whole thing was scripted. Still, I couldn’t help but feel like I’d watched the whole three hours of it for nothing. I honestly don’t know what I could say to someone to get them to watch this film; it really doesn’t have any reasons going for it that aren’t already present in Altman’s Nashville, and that film’s a whole half hour shorter than this one, which just give it another extra point. The cast was great, the script was solid, but there’s basically no actual reason to seek this one out and watch it.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10