Skip to main content


USA, 1996 (MIFF 1996, Contemporary World Cinema )

Director: Robert Altman

In his new film Robert Altman introduces his old home town and trademark touches including the complex inter-relationship between different lives (and plot lines) and his masterly ear for music, this time hot, vintage jazz. All roads lead to Kansas City, the Las Vegas of the 30s, a wild town driven by swindles, gangsters, gambling and music. Race, violence and some of the finest Jazz players in America provide a backdrop for a story set in a heartland city gripped by depression.

On the eve of one of 'Boss' Tom Pendergast's violent elections, the city is wide-open, rever­berating to non-stop jazz Blondie O'Hara (Jennifer lason Leigh), a young telegraph operator, concocts a desperate plan to kidnap socialite Carolyn Stilton (Miranda Richardson). Her goal is to exchange Mrs Stilton for her petty thief of a husband, who has been caught by the legendary gangster and club owner, Seldom Seen (Harry Belafonte). Surrounded by moral turbulence, the two women forge a relationship that changes from abductor and captive to near-trusting friends as they head towards an inevitable transformational conclusion.

"The whole structure of this film relates to jazz," says Altman. No revelation given that one scene quite pointedly places a young Altman makin' the scene at a jazz dive with an equally youthful (way pre-Bird) Charlie Parker "If you look at the actual story, the trade off of one abduction for another, it becomes less about Plot than about these two women travelling around together against a swirl of corruption. The story then becomes what they talk about, where they go, who they run into These are weir solos Belafonte's monologues about race and violence function in a similar way They're all jazz riffs to me"

See also...


... ... In what may be the best work of two illustri­ous careers, the ever-innovative Robert Altman joined forces with Doonesbury creator Garry Trudeau, to create a presidential candi­date ... More »


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 ... More »


Robert Altman based the story of Three Women on a dream he had, ... and the film, the central theme of which is psychological dependency, retains certain elements of dreamlike elusiveness. ... The ... More »


Antiheroic, unshaven slob Philip Marlowe (Elliott Gould) lives in a contemporary Los Angeles that seems to have completely passed him by. Marlowe is perpetually mum­bling under his breath the ... More »


... ... 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 ... More »


First, a peek at the initial events of the film. The seal he hunts now being extinct, Essex is persuaded by his girl. Vivia. to return to the city he left ten years ago with the Earth paralyzed by a ... More »

Select a festival
Search The Film Archive
Browse By Director