Teatro Auditorium Manzoni > 18:45


Robert Altman


Monday 31/08/2020


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

No matter what they’re about, when Altman makes movies, they’re always about movies too. […] He doesn’t dig where classic American cinema directs him, not even to reverse its ethical terms, the tradition it handed down to us, false but also clear and solid. On the contrary, Altman dismantles this obsolete toy by reassembling its pieces according to a personal inspiration: creating characters, situations, ideas, forms, figures of absolute novelty precisely because they symbolise the director’s radical departure from the very Hollywood tropes that provide the underlying basis of his cinema. However, this process […] takes shape according to precise organisation and design. The film of his that most clearly demonstrates this is probably one of his (least remembered) masterpieces, California Split. […] The film pulverizes every previous Hollywood conception of cinema. A non-existent plot spreads like wildfire as the action progresses. But beware: don’t mistake the two main characters for losers who throw away their lives chasing a dream of winning at the gaming table. They are not cinematographic relatives of Runyon/Mankiewicz’s gamblers, nor are they Newmanesque ‘hustlers’ and even less so the unlikely Dostoyevskian player with the face of Gregory Peck from not long before. In one way or another, all of them had an aura of glory closely connected to the great rhetorical tradition of the classic Hollywood screen. These two characters do not. They move anonymously on that same screen: not because they are actually anonymous, but because their journey is entirely haphazard and gambling as a life philosophy in this film never reaches the heights of damnation or triumph. There is no greatness in their story, but only the design of a binary system whose indifferent terms are victory and defeat, as the film’s ending wonderfully demonstrates. […] The great components of bygone American cinema are all or almost there, yet how different a movie it is from all the others!

Franco La Polla, Stili americani, Bononia University Press, Bologna 2003

Cast and Credits

Sog., Scen.: Joseph Walsh. F.: Paul Lohmann. M.: O. Nicholas Brown, Lou Lombardo. Scgf.: Leon Ericksen. Int.: George Segal (Bill Denny), Elliott Gould (Charlie Waters), Ann Prentiss (Barbara Miller), Gwen Welles (Susan Peters), Edward Walsh (Lew), Joseph Walsh (Sparkie), Bert Remsen (Helen Brown), Barbara London (signora sul bus), Barbara Ruick (cameriera a Reno), Jay Fletcher (rapinatore), Jeff Goldblum (Lloyd Harris). Prod.: Robert Altman, Joseph Walsh per Won World Productions, Inc. DCP. D.: 108’.