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50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars elegiac
This is a beautifully shot movie, full of elegant, sombre tableaux. The interiors all look dark and brooding (a little like chiaroscuro oil paintings) The film works so well with the Leonard Cohen songs used in the score that the music seems to have been written with the film in mind.
On another level, this film is a rather jaundiced vision of the old west. There...
Published on 11 Sep 2000 by Vince Cabrera

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Cold, wet and dull
What is the point of this film? If its intention was to illustrate the hard living in a mountainous mining town, where it is either snowing or raining, then it succeeded.

If it intended to illustrate existentialist nihilism, then it achieved that too.

If you expected a firecracker relationship between Julie Christie and Warren Beattie, then you'll...
Published 8 months ago by PodHunter


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50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars elegiac, 11 Sep 2000
By 
This is a beautifully shot movie, full of elegant, sombre tableaux. The interiors all look dark and brooding (a little like chiaroscuro oil paintings) The film works so well with the Leonard Cohen songs used in the score that the music seems to have been written with the film in mind.
On another level, this film is a rather jaundiced vision of the old west. There are no tall blond cowboys riding off into the sunset (a la "Shane"), or illiterate but charismatic characters (as in Sergio Leone's movies) This is a snowbound West full of chisellers, sleazy opportunists and madmen. Bleary saloon-bound no-hopers. Altman's vision owes a lot more to the "streetwise" movies of the 1970s than to anything ever made by John Ford. Imagine if Tom Waits had been a scriptwriter rather than a musician and you'll get some idea of what this film is like.
Altman presents the ragged backside of America's Western myth but with a certain tenderness and love for his characters and their inability to communicate with each other which is missing in a lot of his later films. I wouldn't hesitate to call it a minor masterpiece.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Travelling so long..., 13 July 2008
By 
J. E. Holden (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mccabe And Mrs Miller [DVD] [1971] (DVD)
"You who must leave everything that you cannot control, it begins with your family but soon it comes down to your soul".. and so Leonard Cohen's most haunting lines and ambigously beautiful melodies flow into this greatest of Altman movies.

This is a borderland America, a mystic new-born America, a brutal and tragic land in which life is cheap and full of strife.

The typical Altman charm is here, the melee of life spills from the screen, voices of extras treated with the same reverence as those of our heroes, Beatty and Christie.

These two stars are in their prime and portray a delicious frisson of romance. Beatty is full of lucky bravado, but retains a steadfast honour in love and as his life becomes at risk. Christie is at her cheekiest, cajoling her way through strife, a formidable character.

Which brings me to Leonard Cohen. A great songwriter and poet who peaked in the work for this film. The first time I saw this film I was blown away by the music, its enough to make a great film all by itself.

It is not all by itself though, it complements one of the great human Director's works. A brilliant piece of historical drama and a brilliant work of art.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Mud Splattered Truth., 4 Feb 2011
By 
Bob Salter "Captain Spindrift" (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mccabe And Mrs Miller [DVD] [1971] (DVD)
A lot of people tend to forget that Robert Altman's career started in TV, where with the likes of Sam Peckinpah he gained a good grounding in westerns. He directed episodes from "Bonanza", "US Marshall", "Maverick" and "Tenderfoot". These were all very traditional western offerings, but when he revisited this ground again in 1971, he decided as they say, to do something completely different. What he gave us was a very realistic, mud and rags vision of the west. I have seen many photos taken from that western period, and it is clear that Altman has done the same. The little settlement of Presbyterian Church, is an absolutely authentic looking ramshackle mining settlement, of the type that boomed and bust so often. Altman deliberately shot during the rains that are so prevalent in the far north west, to enhance the bleak look. He also cleverly pre fogged and filtered much of the film, to give it an aged and melancholy look. The final result is a most unusual and very fine film indeed, which simply shows the west for what it really was, and not the highly mythicised Hollywood version. Altman described it as an anti western, but far from debunking the traditional western, it merely shows us how it was 'warts and all'. Whether or not you want the warts is a matter of personal taste!

The story concerns McCabe a drifter/gambler, played by Warren Beatty, who rides into a one horse mining community in America's wild and wet far north west at the beginning of the twentieth century. It does not take him long to sniff out a business opportunity, employing some rather shopworn looking ladies of ill repute. He is soon joined in this business adventure by the feisty madam Mrs Miller, who has a few more women with her and a head for business. The two become partners and everything goes swimmingly until some other operators decide to move in. Their methods are less easygoing than McCabe's. Most of the action is shot on the remarkable Presbyterian Church set, which was specially built for the purpose. It is an impressive bespoke piece of work, and makes the perfect setting for the action. There is an interesting but brief documentary about its construction on the DVD special features. The film has many of Altman's trademark touches, like the overlapping dialogue, that makes for a babel of voices at times, but again helps the authentic feel. Julie Christie is excellent as the madam for which she gained an Academy Award nomination for best actress. Warren Beatty is also very good as the 'not so bright as he appears' McCabe. William Devane also puts in a brief bewhiskered appearance.

The film seems to have grown in stature over the years, gaining something of a cult status. The much talked about Leonard Cohen score is an understated triumph. It is something that has no right to work, but does! Altman's gut instinct proving right again! Look out for one of the most unusual climactic shoot outs in screen history. The film is worth watching for this alone! There are also some lovely scenes shot in some all too real snow. The film has been compared to the more recent so called anti western "The Unforgiven", but apart from being reminded of the mining town in "Pale Rider", and briefly of the finale of "High Noon", I don't believe there is another film quite like this one. It could be considered a very faithful and carefully composed daguerreotype of the old west, caught without make up in moments of mud splattered truth. Once again I will have to consider revising my favourite westerns list, because this one certainly demands a place for its unique vision.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Two stars circling each other - while outside it snows, 4 April 2010
By 
Four Violets (Hertford UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mccabe And Mrs Miller [DVD] [1971] (DVD)
This would have merited five stars but for the ending, which disappointed me horribly. But perhaps that's just a measure of how much I was into the characters and the incredibly authentic period setting of small-town America mining pioneers living a harsh life in mud I could feel sucking at my feet and swirling blizzards that made me shiver and glad I was inside in the warm. John McCabe (Warren Beatty) may be an ace cardsharp but his masculine pride refuses to let him admit that Mrs Miller (Julie Christie), bordello madam and associate, might have a superior business acumen. The ever-downbeat Leonard Cohen tracks provide a suitably gloomy, pessimistic background to the story of the pair, with only ever a shred of hope that their emerging affection for each other could come to anything.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Cold, wet and dull, 20 April 2014
This review is from: McCabe And Mrs Miller (DVD)
What is the point of this film? If its intention was to illustrate the hard living in a mountainous mining town, where it is either snowing or raining, then it succeeded.

If it intended to illustrate existentialist nihilism, then it achieved that too.

If you expected a firecracker relationship between Julie Christie and Warren Beattie, then you'll be disappointed.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars every Leonard Cohen should buy this, 9 Oct 2006
This review is from: Mccabe And Mrs Miller [DVD] [1971] (DVD)
This DVD is a Classic and calling it a ' Western ' may put of some people - forget the stereotype just Buy the DVD and you will be enchanted by it - trust me .

Now I have to confess that I love this DVD mainly because of the music.

I am a huge fan of ' Leonard Cohen ' and I know his albums backwards so when I first saw the film on TV I was completely puzzled because his songs merge into the film so well that if I did not know better I would swear the Music was writing for the Film which of course was not the case - Here is the story of how Cohen was used for most of the film -

The music for the film was largely by Leonard Cohen. Altman had liked Cohen's debut album immensely, buying additional copies of it after wearing each one out. Then he had forgotten about the LP. Years later he visited Paris, just after finishing shooting on McCabe & Mrs. Miller, and rediscovered the album; he had it transferred and started the music to maintain a rhythm for the film. He didn't expect to be able to procure rights for the music since it was a Warner Brothers film and Cohen's album was released through Columbia Records. However, he called Cohen, expecting to trade off his recent success with M*A*S*H, but found that Cohen did not much like the film. Instead, he had loved Altman's less popular follow-up film Brewster McCloud, and arranged for his record company to license the music cheaply, even writing into the contract that sales of that album after the release of McCabe would turn some of the royalties to Altman (an arrangement which at the time was quite unusual). Later, on watching McCabe to come up with a guitar riff for one scene, Cohen decided he didn't like the film, but honoured his contract. A year later he called Altman to apologize, saying he had seen the film again and loved it.

The film was shot in the environs of Vancouver, British Columbia almost entirely in sequential order--a rarity for films. The crew found a suitable location for the filming and, as filming progressed, built up the "set" as McCabe built up the town in the film. In the film, Mrs. Miller is brought into town on a steam engine from the late 1800s; the steam engine is genuine and functioning and the crew used it to power the lumbermill after its arrival. Carpenters for the film were locals and young men from the United States, fleeing conscription into the Vietnam War; they were dressed in period costume and used tools of the period so that they could go about their business in the background while the plot advanced in the foreground. The crew ran buried hoses throughout the town, placed so they could create the appearance of rain if necessary.

It began snowing near the end of the film's shooting, when the church fire and the standoff were the only scenes left to shoot. Beatty didn't want to start shooting in the snow, as it was in a sense dangerous to do so: to preserve continuity, the entire rest of the film would have to be shot in snow. Altman countered that since those were the only scenes left to film, it was best to start since there was nothing else to do. The "standoff" scene--which is in fact more a "cat and mouse" scene involving shooting one's enemy in the back--and its concurrent church fire scene were shot over a period of nine days. The heavy snow, with the exception of a few "fill-in" patches on the ground, was all genuine the crew members built snowmen and had snowball fights between takes.

As you can imagine this is a very laid back Film - just cut the phone line and settle down for a wonderful journey that will turn you into a Cohen fan
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful movie!, 1 Nov 2009
By 
Torben Hellborn "EarWax" (Denmark) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mccabe And Mrs Miller [DVD] [1971] (DVD)
Take a chance and buy this very "old" film.
Robert Altmann's third movie and such a joy
for the eye. What its about - don't bother
too much , use your eyes and enjoy the care
taken to create this document, if I may say so.
Don't worry though, the story is also interesting
and evolving very unexpectedly.
Best
Torben, Denmark
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A sad and fatalistic western., 28 Jan 2011
By 
S. Hyde "Artist" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mccabe And Mrs Miller [DVD] [1971] (DVD)
This is a quiet, sad, fatalistic western and one of the best things Warren Beatty ever did. Loosely based on a 1959 novel by Edmund Naughton, which Altman said contained all the standard western clichés which allowed him to "destroy all the myths of heroism." If you're looking for the usual western conventions then look elsewhere.
The film is set around the turn of the 20th century in the American Northwest. It opens to a washed-out wintry landscape and the music of Leonard Cohen. We see a stranger riding into a muddy mining town, he is McCabe (Beatty) and as he approaches the town he changes his clothes into something more dignified and gentlemanly. He has a reputation for killing a man, we never know if it's true, but it's enough to get him his own way with the simple town-folk. McCabe is a bit of a conman who sees himself as an entrepreneur and views this growing settlement as an opportunity for making money. He plans to build a casino and a brothel, and wants things his own way but he's a terrible organiser and when he tries running his operation from tents it proves chaotic.
In walks Julie Christie with her tough business sense and her conviction that his brothel needs her management. McCabe doesn't like alliances but he relents, she's so persuasive he really has no choice, but this is the only time in the film that lets anyone through his defenses. He's believes in old fashioned things such as honour and virtue but makes terrible business decisions in trying to keep his independence. He doesn't really have a vision so much as muddles through rejecting all relationships with others. But he's also a bit of a fool whose actions are self-defeating and when he refuses a takeover by a large corporation it leads, not so much to tragedy, as further isolation of the two main characters.
In many ways this film reminds me of Altman's California Split, which came 3 years later. Both films are about gamblers and loners. The characters of Mrs Miller and McCabe are so isolated emotionally and physically. She is defensive and unable to relax without Opium. McCabe tries to reach out to her but he's so clumsy and incapable of communicating his feelings. They both only really trust money. And this is the real tragedy of the film. At the end you are left with sense of sadness as the weather and history passes over these foolish lives.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It really is a 'Western', 3 May 2007
By 
Joe Dorward - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mccabe And Mrs Miller [DVD] [1971] (DVD)
One of the 6 films I'm taking to the desert island.

Films of the Western genre are morality-plays. This film is a morality-play - an enterprising gambler tries to set up a small-time gambling establishment (and whore-house), but after the arrival of Mrs. Miller the business expands. At that point the 'big boys' try to muscle-in. He refuses to sell and a battle of wits and bullets ensues.

The story unfolds in a quiet, low-key way. The filming seems to be done in available light with one microphone so you hear the dialog as if you're actually there - not quite hearing everything - I love McCabe And Mrs Miller because it's so 'real'.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The card so high and wild, 15 Sep 2014
This review is from: Mccabe And Mrs Miller [DVD] [1971] (DVD)
This extraordinarily beautiful, poetic and touching movie is like no other; to call it a western, to suggest that it's essentially a genre piece, is most misleading. It's probably the very best film in Robert Altman's diverse and uneven output, and it keeps surprising us. It's a story of dreamers who don't know they're dreamers, an ill-matched pair who have little chance in the harsh world of the emerging twentieth century, but who are, in the phrase of Leonard Cohen, beautiful losers. The "paradise" that John McCabe - tinhorn gambler, pimp and fantast - is instrumental in creating in the community called Presbyterian Church (a collection of huts in the freezing cold which slowly grows into a sort of town) is an unconventional one, for it's a hard, dirty place populated by simple, often illiterate miners and cheap whores, but the life that McCabe and his spiky, hard-headed partner Mrs. Miller (who's less tough than she seems) create for themselves and the others is, for a little while, an idyllic one. "I got poetry in me!", McCabe keeps saying - it doesn't seem likely, and yet, by the end, we wonder if it might not be true. The interruption of the world into this bleak, sealed-off hideaway is most jarring - three men arrive to kill McCabe, and the fragility that has informed the whole film reaches snapping-point. But, even then, the film has surprises for us; the climax, whilst wrenchingly tragic, is unexpected enough to make you re-think everything that's gone before. The time to make up your mind about people is never. Warren Beatty's performance as McCabe is marvellously inventive and original; Julie Christie, gorgeous but quite unlike her usual self, is every bit his equal. It's a film which will stay with you always.
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Mccabe And Mrs Miller [DVD] [1971]
Mccabe And Mrs Miller [DVD] [1971] by Robert Altman (DVD - 2003)
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