Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Robert Altman, RIP

A giant has left the earth.

Not a huge imposing giant. Not a builder of epics that cast shadows on everything near them. Instead a crafter of tales. Tales of truth, even when disguised in a cloak of irony. Tales of people.

I've discussed his movies here and elsewhere so many times that I find it difficult to think of something new or important to say today.

Robert Altman is one of the filmmakers who I've always aspired to be like. The observer looking on and telling others to put on a show for him. My most effective days directing have been, I believe, that I came closest to that ideal, at least such as it exists in my mind, and the days I was least effective were the ones that I wasn't able to.

I think his approach, the way he viewed the people he was working with as partners in the process, brought out the best in those he worked with, all around. You can even look at something as broad and cartoonish as Popeye and see how the world is so broad and yet so genuinely lived in, and the characters, which are caricatures, by their nature, play out as fully developed human beings.

I am in a strange way comforted that his last movie was A Prairie Home Companion. It's an eloquent good-bye from another time. It's a story of death and of moving on. It's a story about letting go and remembering. But, most of all, as always, it's about people.

Robert Altman wasn't the kind of giant who stood stomped through valley and made the mountains quake around him. He moved through us and held us to a mirror to see ourselves. In doing so, his affect may have been all the more profound. He affected us in much the same way as people affect each other in his movies, subtly, sometimes without us even realizing it.

I am sad today that there will be no more gems from Robert Altman in the future. I'm sad that I will never get to meet him, shake his hand and tell him thank you.

But I'm glad and very grateful that he stood on the earth for a time and affected so many of us, in his own way.


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