SteelCity99 - wrote on 04/22/18
If Altman had never made the masterfully haunting and psychologically disturbing nightmare called 3 Women (1977), Nashville would undoubtedly have been his masterpiece.
Nashville is a triumphant juggernaut derived from two main influences, in my humble opinion: a) that of the cinema that reflected the American counter-culture, more specifically during the last years of the 60s, and b) the cinéma vérité style. As a mix of both, and emphasizing the latter, Nashville is one of the first renowned celluloid masterpieces to present interrelated stories in a fragmented way for finally bringing them all to a common denominator with a large-scale event. In this case, that denominator is placed in the climax. With its anecdotic composition, the film, with the aid of Short Cuts (1993) nearly 20 years later, would execute a huge influence on American filmmakers from Quentinn Tarantino to Paul Thomas Anderson, which would afterwards propagate through the world of moviemaking. That's how big the film is.
The film feels extremely naturalistic in its free-flowing narration of a number of facets of a town with a representative cultural element: country music. That element is capable of speaking a common language that can unite such a vast array of peculiar and contradictory characters: the misunderstood and frustrated star, the unsuccessful aspirational star, the almost-pantheist and foolhardy reporter, the ones hungry for power and fame, the consummerist media, the runaway wife with dreams of stardom, the junkies, the entertainment industry managers, the party guests, the party hosts, the musicians, the black and the white, the religious and the non-religious, the fundamentalists and the open-minded, the enamoured and the perverted, the drunkards, the parents and the children... In the end, the power of music and its cultural background proves itself to be capable of standing above any political inclinations, which is an area that evidently doesn't suit their interests.
Working fundamentally as cinéma vérité and disguised as a documentary filming its characters like if they were unaware of the presence of cameras everywhere, Nashville is cinematic brilliance, which could be even labeled as experimental given the time. Altman's scope is tremendous, and proportionally committed at representing, as realistically as possible, the ups and downs, the anecdotes, the ironic situations, the frustrations, dreams, desires, meetings, formal and accidental gatherings, moving from one event to the next, predicting Linklater's future narrative structure, such as in Slacker (1991) and Waking Life (2001). However, it is principally an all-embracing work of art, featuring outstanding songs wonderfully performed, and faithfully representing its culture, as well as the impacts it has in its willing participants during their everyday lives.
Although it may be simple to draw some valid points referring to possible complimentary subtexts regarding the power of media, the repercussions of fame, power and stardom, fanatic tendencies in the masses, and the impact of a culture in the way we perceive art and life, I think that Altman's purpose was to discover the amount of messages hidden between lines that could be obtained with an engrossingly realistic form of cinema, and how the characters could evolve more naturally if given a more tangible environment. It is no surprise, therefore, that the situations feel real, the jokes become funnier and the dialogues more authentic. It is a nonstop showdown between realistic scenarios and exaggerated characters in a lively setting full of energy. It is incredible how much Altman is willing to pay attention to the little details, because every single scenario has people talking or doing things. The movie literally becomes alive, and we are granted an omniscient Big Brother power to witness it all and put the collage together to get a broader look at the whole picture.
Kaleidoscopic galore and a grand scope... Altman is a genius, to say the least. This is one of the best U.S. projects of its decade.