This ho-hum doc about the late, great American filmmaker Robert Altman is a disappointment.
It’s an appetising enough hop and skip through his career. We’re reminded how the Kansas City-born director made industrial films and TV series in the 1950s and became the toast of ’70s Hollywood with ‘The Long Goodbye’ and ‘McCabe and Mrs Miller’. He had a wobble in the 1980s before making a late-career comeback with gems like 1992’s ‘The Player’ and 2001’s ‘Gosford Park’.
But there’s remarkably little insight here, especially when you consider that this is an insiders’ film, with a voiceover from Altman’s wife Kathryn, home-movie footage and cringey snippets of famous collaborators (Robin Williams, James Caan, Lily Tomlin) answering the question, ‘What does Altmanesque mean to you?’ That said, the film works as a basic primer. There are enjoyable clips from the films themselves and entertaining snippets of late-life interviews.
In the end, you wonder how much Altman’s family really knew or understood of his filmmaking aims and process. His wife and sons talk openly about his prolonged absences from home, before a late resurgence of interest in his family close to his death in 2006 at 81. The occasional intimacy of ‘Altman’ is winning, but a touch more distance wouldn’t have gone amiss.