Almost all of the songs in “Nashville”, and there are many, were written by the actors who sing them – Blakley, Karen Black, Gibson, Carradine and others. None of them are great singers (Gwen Welles plays a waitress who can’t sing at all, and eventually finds a friend honest enough to tell her). Altman says in his commentary that little time was spent in rehearsal (“we spent more time on the hair”) and that the casual, serious tone of the songs sounds better than a polished performance. Likewise the stupid ramblings of Geraldine Chaplin, as a BBC journalist who barges in where she is not wanted and puts her microphone under people’s noses. As she wanders through a dump, in free association, we wonder if she’s really with the BBC – she’s so crazy, maybe she’s an impostor.
Beneath the songs, romance and politics beat a darker stream of political assassination. The scene is directed by Barbara Baxley, playing Haven’s harsh mistress, who has a lengthy monologue about the Kennedys. We begin to focus on two young vagrants – the soldier who spends the night in the singer’s hospital room and another young man who has rented a furnished room. When Barbara Jean sings at a riverboat concert, we realize, with dismay, that they are both in the front row, side by side. Is there a threat there? Which?
Robert Altman’s life’s work refused to be contained within the edges of the screen. His famous overlapping dialogue, for which he invented a new sound recording system, is an attempt to deny that only one character is speaking at a time. His characters have neighbors, friends, secret alliances. They connect unexpectedly. Their stories are not contained in conventional plots.
From his first big hit in “MASH” to the wonderful “Cookie’s Fortune” (1999), there are many characters entwined in his stories, and almost alone among white American directors, he never forgets that many black people live and working. in the city. In “Nashville” and its consecutive triumphs “The Player” (1992) and “Short Cuts” (1993), he led the way to Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia”, and last year J ‘ have seen several other interconnected character films, most recently “Wonderland” and “Five Senses”.
The buried message may be that life doesn’t unfold in a linear fashion until the clean end of a story. It’s messy and we bump into each other, and we’re all in the same boat. This is the message I get at the end of “Nashville,” and it has never failed to move me.