Directed by: ROBERT ALTMAN
1977, TSPDT Rank #927
Tonight I watched Robert Altman's 3 Women for the first time. I've now seen every other Altman film on the 1,000 Greatest Films list except for Short Cuts - which I am now very anxious to see as soon as possible. Altman is one of those rare directors who can always surprise you, no matter how much you've read about them or how many of their films you've seen. Every Altman film I've seen so far has been totally unique and fascinating (whether I thought it was great or not), while always containing clear glimpses of the trademark Altman style. 3 Women is definitely no exception to this, and it left me absolutely floored. It's a delirious fever dream of a film, reminiscent of a cross between Bergman's Persona and a lurid Southern Gothic story, while still being cut from the same whacked-out California cloth as Altman's earlier film, The Long Goodbye. Comparing these two films is actually very interesting, because while the Phillip Marlowe detective story of The Long Goodbye might appear to be worlds apart from the twisted identity crises of 3 Women on the surface, it appears in retrospect that these films have more in common than initially meets the eye. Elliot Gould's Marlowe is caught up in an unbelievably convoluted network of people who are anything but what they appear to be - to the point where he is nearly swallowed up by them - while the characters of 3 Women float around and around in a whirlpool of confusion and denial that eventually swallows them up and spits them out, resulting in a violent rebirth that mirrors The Long Goodbye's numbing climax. To me, these two films represent some of the best possible qualities of cinema - in that they hold the viewer in their grip and leave them confounded and mystified when the credits start to roll. The best kind of film raises more questions than it answers, and 3 Women is a supreme example of that special brand of film.