Nashville MAG

By Andrew C., Charlotte, NC

   Nashville" issaturated with youthful intensity. Released in 1975 when director Robert Altmanwas 50, it feels like the work of a man in his early twenties, the time when oneis trying to figure out what to do with the lifetime ahead.

Set in thechaotic post-'60s South, "Nashville" rarely liberates itself from astrange loneliness in the gut. The two dozen characters and countless extras movefrom place to place in five hectic days that lead up to a concert in support of agrass-roots presidential candidate. The feeling is sadness rather than anger, andwe discover that it isn't just for the young - after all, an elderly man (KeenanWynn) has lost his beloved wife and is faced with the question of who he is.

On a larger scale, the film is about our nation. The gut feeling must bea result of the transitory nature of everything in Altman's American portrait:People live in cheap hotels, vehicles, hospitals, rented rooms and bars. The twosides of civilization are the audience and the country singers, but many who arepart of the audience are just like the stars, always pushing on to the next town,the next venue.

Altman's Nashville isn't the kind of place you belong to,and this speaks to our own sense of loss or uncertainty. And though the film aimsto encompass all American life, it is also a look at the titularcity.

Country music has an endearing simplicity, and the best of it has anunrelenting, romantic honesty. But the opening sequence maps out the contrastsbetween the love of life and music at the origin of country and the moldiness ofthese musicians-turned-pop-stars: Henry Gibson, as the narcissistic local legendHaven Hamilton, records an irksome patriotic tune in one booth with an attitudeof exclusivity and unpleasantness, while high-pitched Lily Tomlin and a blackgospel choir sing God's praises as if tunneling to the joyous depths of humanity.

The concept of the country star is the corporate packaging of a belief inthe common man - a humble, approachable figure. Yet, the most angelic of all -Ronee Blakley's character Barbara Jean (who sings beautifully, Patsy Cline-style,on "Dues") - is an enigma. Mysteriously, we may have more understandingfor a reckless, womanizing rock star like Tom Frank (Keith Carradine).

There's a lot in "Nashville" to adore, but not least are theperformances. In a way, the movie is a love song dedicated to the cast. Theconcept of huge ensembles dates back, at least, to Hollywood star parades like"Grand Hotel" in 1932, but in "Nashville," despite themovie's own set of devices and coincidences, the communal feeling is notcounterfeit. Altman is not selling celebrities the way that Hollywood did with"Grand Hotel," but the actors become our rock and country stars anyway,and some also assume a place with us - the fans and spectators.

Altmanbelieves wholeheartedly in the equality of all, yet he is eager to explore theboundaries people create. In our current political climate, it feels good to seea movie that neither looks away from our flaws nor ignores the beauty of thecountry. The fusion of primitive hopefulness and the veil of commercialism - thedichotomy between the roots and the truths of our nation - are at the heart of"Nashville," one of the most moving - and most American - movies evermade.

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i love this so much!


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