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THE PLAYER

USA, 1992 (MIFF 1992)

Director: Robert Altman

Robert Altman's inventive black comedy represents a triumphant return from the wilderness and his most accomplished work since Nashville (1975). Based upon Michael Tolkin's satirical novel of celluloid delusions and hypocrisy, it involves a ruthlessly ambi­tious and self-absorbed studio executive named Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins) who, enmeshed in a studio power struggle, murders a writer and believes he has the right to manu­facture a 'happy ending" for himself. In-jokes and movie-star cameos abound; more than 60 Hollywood celebrities agreed to perform, working for scale and with their salaries donat­ed to charity.

Last year's Barton Fink chillingly depicted writers-block. But in The Player the writers are blocked by the system itself which snuffs out any trace of originality. (One can only guess at the pitch Altman must have delivered to the financiers to get the green light for this bite-the-hand-that-feeds-you project.)

A Hollywood outsider viewed by the industry in recent times as a washed-up icono­clast, Altman views the business of making movies with an ironic detachment. He depicts the studios as dominated by overpaid sales­men and corporate con-artists. There's an exhilaration to Altman's story-telling and it's backed up with a technical exuberance not seen since his heydey 20 years ago when each new Altman film was eagerly awaited.

The Bad And The Beautiful, Sunset Boulevard, Day For Night and, more recently. The Big Pic­ture, have explored the filmmaking process and the psychology of its participants, but not within such an ambitiously constructed frame­work encompassing suspense thriller, romance and mordant comedy...with that happy end­ing to boot.

See also...

AMERICAN RULING CLASS

USA, 2005
Does America have a ruling class? How does one join it, and should one even want to? Written by Lewis Lapham, American Ruling Class explores the US's most taboo topics: class, power and privilege in … More »

z channel: a magnificent obsession

USA, 2004
Directed by Xan Cassavetes, daughter of legendary actor-director John Cassavetes, [Z Channel] is an engrossing account of a TV phenomenon topped off by a bizarre murder-suicide. Jerry Harvey was a vi… More »

PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION

USA, 2005
“Not since Woody Allen's Radio Days has anyone created such a cinematic Valentine to the wonderfully imaginative medium of radio as A Prairie Home Companion.” - Hollywood Reporter Protean filmmak… More »

WHAT A WONDERFUL PLACE

Israel, 2005
Reminiscent of Robert Altman's elaborate ensemble cast pieces, What a Wonderful Place deftly weaves multiple story threads into an intricate tapestry, depicting the lives of marginalised immigrants l… More »

HEALTH

USA, 1980
Health is Robert Altman in one of his broad fresco satires of American conventions. And here his subject is a convention — a health food convention in Florida. The script was written by Frank B… More »

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