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Fox Lorber presents
The Directors: Robert Altman (1999)

"There's nobody like him, and it's because of how he sees things."
- Jeff Goldblum

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: September 19, 2000

Stars: Robert Altman, Glenn Close, Shelly Duvall
Other Stars: Jeff Goldblum, Elliot Gould, Sally Kellerman
Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (clips from PG to R rated material)
Run Time: 01h:00m:00s
Release Date: August 08, 2000
UPC: 720917309620
Genre: documentary


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B- C-D+C+ D+

DVD Review

There are many people who feel that director Robert Altman is the most significantly revolutionary American filmmaker since perhaps Orson Welles. I'm not sure if I'd agree with that, but I have no desire to argue the merits of such a belief. Love him or hate him, Altman has a massive career behind him that hosts some of the most definitive and historic films of the 20th century. If anything, he's earned a vast amount of respect simply from his tireless work schedule which often has him directing sometimes 3 films in a row, without breaks. Amongst his résumé are films like M*A*S*H, Nashville, and the Hollywood satire The Player.

I'm something of a latecomer to Altman's work. Though I grew up watching some of this films, I was mainly oblivious to the bulk of his career, most likely due to the lack of commercial exposure he receives. My initial fanhood came in the form of Vincent and Theo, his completely underappreciated biopic of artist Vincent Van Gogh and the relationship with is brother, Theo. I also was drawn to Altman's work in the film Aria, which was a multi-director piece where every director gave his own visual interpretation of a specific piece of opera. I also admit being a fan of Popeye, arguably the best comic-based film ever made that completely embodied the bizarre world of the original Popeye cartoons and serials. Even a country/western music hater like me is able to appreciate the grand scope with which Altman tells the story of Nashville. One of the interesting things in the interviews present on this disc is Altman's distaste for making M*A*S*H into a television series which, he felt, ruined much of the anonymous point of the film. In fact, he reveals that it was not supposed to have been set during the Korean War initially, but rather an unnamed war. Of course, connections to Vietnam would have been made, so the studio objected.

Like other Director's Series discs, the presentation is in the form of a documentary, with interview segments and clips from Altman's films. The majority of the film is discussion with Robert Altman himself and the other segments feature actors like Elliot Gould, Rene Auberjonois, and Jack Lemmon. Unfortunately, Altman's vast career simply cannot fit into this simplistic format very well. At one hour, many of Altman's works are truncated in favor of trying to cover the most thematically important ones and one film, Secret Honor, isn't even mentioned.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The overall video quality is frustratingly bad. While it's certainly watchable, there are many problems. Most of the interview segments have easily visible shimmering and pixelization, and the film clips are abysmal. Although the clips are in the correct aspect ratio, the quality is rock bottom at best with negative problems, washed-out colors and black level. I certainly hope this is not an example of what Altman's catalog will look like on DVD.

Image Transfer Grade: D+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The audio is primarily Pro-Logic mono for the interview dialogue. Some film clips and musical flourishes come out in stereo. The track serves its purpose, but isn't very lively or exciting. However, this is probably to be expected from such an interview intensive film.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 8 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. DVD-ROM Weblinks
Extras Review: Other than a short bio and filmography, the disc is light on anything supplemental. What would have been a good idea would have been an entire section of the disc devoted to film clips from Altman's work, at least the films covered in the documentary. In the actual film, these clips are typically obscured by being too short and having an interviewee talk over them. DVD-ROM weblinks presumably lead to a Director's Series website.

Extras Grade: D+

 

Final Comments

The type of journalism in the Director's Series is very good, but 60 minutes is an awfully short period time to move around in when you're dealing with a filmmaker who has 30+ films under his belt. This disc is a good introduction to the world Robert Altman lives in, especially if you're new to his work, but is hardly the final word in authoritative filmmaking on the subject. Makes a good rental with other discs in the series.

 


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