Robert Altman  

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Robert Altman (February 20, 1925November 20, 2006) was an American film director known for making films that are highly naturalistic, but with a stylized perspective. In 2006, the Academy recognized his work with an Honorary Award.

His films MASH and Nashville have been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. He was one of the oldest members of the New Hollywood set. In Peter Biskind’s book about the American auteurs of the 1970s, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, the author writes, “Altman became the quintessential New Hollywood director. The irony, of course, was that he was a good twenty years older than, say, George Lucas.”

His realistic style of filmmaking and writing dialogue has been dubbed "Altmanesque." Bruce Westbook writes "This often means a large ensemble chattering in overlapping dialogue while flitting around a central theme." [1]



As a director, Altman favored stories showing the interrelationships between several characters; he stated that he was more interested in character motivation than in intricate plots [see modernist literature]. As such, he tended to sketch out only a basic plot for the film, referring to the screenplay as a "blueprint" for action, and allowed his actors to improvise dialogue. This is one of the reasons Altman was known as an "actor's director," a reputation that helped him work with large casts of well-known actors.

Altmanesque dialogues

He frequently allowed the characters to talk over each other in such a way that it is difficult to make out what each of them is saying. He noted on the DVD commentary of McCabe & Mrs. Miller that he lets the dialogue overlap, as well as leaving some things in the plot for the audience to infer, because he wants the audience to pay attention. He uses a headset to make sure everything pertinent comes through without attention being drawn to it. Similarly, he tried to have his films rated R (by the MPAA rating system) so as to keep children out of his audience – he did not believe children have the patience his films require. This sometimes spawned conflict with movie studios, who do want children in the audience for increased revenues.

The Delinquents

In 1955 Altman was hired by Elmer Rhoden Jr., a local Kansas City movie theater exhibitor, to write and direct a low-budget exploitation film on juvenile crime, titled The Delinquents, which would become his first feature film. Altman wrote the script in one week and filmed it with a budget of $63,000 on location in Kansas City in two weeks. Rhoden Jr. wanted the film to kick-start his career as a film producer. Altman wanted the film to be his ticket into the elusive Hollywood circles. The cast was made up of the local actors and actresses from community theater who also appeared in Calvin Company films, Altman family members, and three imported actors from Hollywood, including the future Billy Jack, Tom Laughlin. The film was picked up for distribution for $150,000 by United Artists and released in 1957, grossing nearly $1,000,000.

Notable films

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