Tuesday, March 14, 2006

California Split

California Split was long unavailable on video. I believe it was never released on tape at all and was just recently released on DVD, apparently losing approximately 3 minutes because of music rights issues. That's too bad.

I had never seen the movie until last night and I spent quite a lot of time and effort tracking down most other Altman movies during an obsessive period in the mid-90s. I seem to recall Thieves Like Us being something of a challenge.

As such, I can't speak to how those three minutes would make this film work better. I don't doubt that they do, in one manner or another. The fact is, however, like all Altman movies, this isn't about useless things like plot. This is about character. Quite possibly moreso than most others even.

So, from the perspective of a newcomer viewing this movie fresh, I thought the characters were amazing. George Segal plays the fish out of water here, with the added challenge that he's a fish out of water with some moderate skill at playing like he fits in. Elliot Gould has the character who has to be at once charming and the kind of guy you can understand following to disaster and also someone rather without much to offer the world and play both likeable and unlikeable with equal skill and grace.

The movie wanders rather aimlessly between their various attempts to hit big at one gambling venture or another, slowly illuminating their characters further until a trip to Reno changes their relationship entirely. Along the way we meet the usual kinds of Altman characters, grifters, whores and lowlifes, all with fully realized personalities, no matter how small their screen time. In fact, quite remarkably, even the large groups of extras in every place seems to have their own story being told in some small way.

It's a remarkable movie. I can't believe it took me so long to see.

1 comment:

Sleestak said...

I loved the moovie soundtrack to Thieves like Us, which was maddeningly never released. I used to have a good list of all the music used in the film but I have since lost it.

One f these days I'll find a copy of the DVD again...it's as hard to Find as Street Trash.

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