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McCabe & Mrs Miller

McCabe & Mrs Miller

classified 15

1971: The Year Hollywood Went Independent

Film

Please note: This was screened in July 2021

Director
Robert Altman
Cast
Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Rene Auberjonois, William Devane
Details
121 mins, 1971, USA
Primary language
English

Warren Beatty’s performance as outlaw Clyde Barrow in Arthur Penn’s ground breaking Bonnie and Clyde (1967) announced a new kind of American hero: the outlaw. Here was glamour and evident star quality portraying someone outside the law as the film’s sympathetic character.

Beatty continued this moral ambiguity most strikingly as the gambler/businessman McCabe who sets up a ‘superior kind of whorehouse experience’ with equally morally ambiguous Mrs Miller (played with luminescent intelligence by Julie Christie) in Robert Altman’s anti-western McCabe and Mrs Miller.

Altman himself was an assertive Hollywood outsider who had struck commercial gold with his subversive anti-war comedy M.A.S.H. This success gave him the creative space to make his next film, which not only reframed the entrenched values of the Western genre but redefined a visual style thanks to the talent of cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, where the viewer has to play an active part in making the film’s meaning rather than being a passive recipient.