Wednesday, August 22, 2007

cinema obscura: "Paul Giamatti Selects": Robert Altman's "Brewster McCloud" (1970)

It isn't on DVD yet, there are still a few laser discs of it floating around, but on Monday, August 27th, you can see Robert Altman's "Brewster McCloud" (1970) the way it was supposed to be seen - in scope and with an audience.

That's if you're in the New York area.

The Bam Rose Cinemas, at 30 Lafayette Avenue in Brooklyn, continues its intriguing "Paul Giamatti Selects" series with three showings of Altman's counterculture classic at 4:40, 6:50 and 9:15 p.m. on the 27th.

"Brewster" is my favorite Altman film, although I'm not sure I can explain why. I saw it at a point in my life when it somehow meant something. I guess it basically says that non-conforminty kills and, for a non-comformist, that's a commanding, provocative notion hard to shake.

See it. If you can.

(Artwork: Bud Cort, Altman's Brewster, soars in scope)

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Daryl Chin said...

BREWSTER McCLOUD remains one of my favorite Altman films, as well, i do seem to enjoy his "antic" unclassifiable movies (3 WOMEN is another one i love), it has shown up (at least twice) on TCM, but it seems to be lost in limbo. But some things i love about it: the songs that John Phillips (of the Mama's and the Papa's) wrote; the high school marching band breaking into "The Black National Anthem" ("Lift Every Voice") at the beginning as they ignore Margaret Hamilton's witchy admonitions; Sally Kellerman's weird bird shriek when she realizes Brewster is no longer a virgin. I also think it's one of Sally Kellerman's best performances - she seems driftingly sad in a way that's indefinable. (Was she or wasn't she Brewster's mother? That's never made clear, and i think that was deliberate.)

joe baltake said...

I agree. This was Kellerman's best performance - intriguingly haunted. I always thought of her as Brewster's fairy godmother in this fractured fairy tale. But you're right: She goes over the deep end when he has sex, just as most mothers do.

George Moshe Metatron said...

I used to watch Brewster over and over during the time period I lost my virginity. That probably wasn't the smartest bit of personal programming, as the film sort of prophecied a sort of self-destructiveness that occurs when the Icarus-like hero tries to fly too close to the sun after getting laid. Pauline Kael marveled at the time of its release about the fact that the film seems to be a Victorian fable about the dangers of sex and antiestablishment thinking, which is surprising coming from a liberal humanist like Altman. I tried to watch it again last year after Altman died, but found my taste for it had waned over the years. It's still an indispensable film in Altman's oeuvre that demonstrates, even moreso than MASH, the stylistic techniques (rampant zooms, overlapping dialogue, parallel editing) that Altman became known for in some of his more sophisticated works in the 70's. Altman once said Brewster was his personal favorite of all his films. Another bit of trivia--on the basis of his love for Brewster, Leonard Cohen joyfully allowed Altman to borrow his music for McCabe.