McCABE & MRS. MILLER
Sog.: dal romanzo McCabe di Edmund Naughton. Scen.: Robert Altman, Brian McKay. F.: Vilmos Zsigmond. M.: Lou Lombardo. Scgf.: Philip Thomas, Al Locatelli. Int.: Warren Beatty (John McCabe), Julie Christie (Constance Miller), René Auberjonois (Sheehan), John Schuck (Smalley), Michael Murphy (Sears), Corey Fischer (Mr. Elliott), Bert Remsen (Bart Coyle), Shelley Duvall (Ida Coyle), William Devane (l’avvocato), Keith Carradine (il cowboy). Prod.: David Foster, Mitchell Brower per David Foster Productions. DCP. D.: 120’. Col.
Paolo Mereghetti John Wayne called McCabe & Mrs. Miller a “corrupt” film, but in actual fact it is the confirmation of an auteur who was in the process of reinventing American cinema, radically changing its way of narrating stories and communicating with the spectator. To those who were looking at the cinema while thinking of the past, Altman responded, “Come and look out of my window: I see things the way they look from there”. This approach was already evident in M.A.S.H. and would be doubly so in McCabe & Mrs. Miller, a western that was almost unrecognisable to those who were used to seeing the genre as the classic American cinema and were now suddenly confront- ed by a story which had nothing to do with heroes, with goodies and baddies, with myth and legend. Strengthened by the success of his film on army doctors in Korea and by the interest of Warren Beatty (who had originally thought of Polanski to adapt Edmund Naughton’s novel for the big screen), Altman completely overturned characters and situations, turning a daring, courageous and confident gunfighter into “an unfortunate cheat who expresses himself in stock phrases and predictable banalities […] and who proceeds by trial and error” (Benayoun). In the interests of authenticity, he eliminated the traditional cowboy costume (McCabe wears a bowler hat rather than a stetson) and together with Vilmos Zsigmond exposed the negative to the light before developing it in order to destroy the clarity of the image and obtain the old-fashioned, yellowish tint characteristic of photographs from the era. He took advantage of the adverse weather to imbue the snowy, rainy and muddy landscape with that sense of defeat and surrender which is the key to the whole film. The result was a film that doesn’t respect the rules (overlapping dialogue, action without explanation, close-ups of extras shot as if they were protagonists), which doesn’t concern itself with conventions (the use of the zoom to establish a close relationship between closeups and the background) and which displayed all the characteristics of the western only to better demolish the American mythology of the extraordinary and progressive results of free initiative.