>a legacy

>Yesterday I watched Nashville (1975) and then followed it up with A Prairie Home Companion (2006). This is a review of neither, rather just a small reflection. In short, watching these films got me thinking about mortality.

I chose Nashville because it is a film I have always wanted to see and it is on my “must see” list (my own film challenge). I chose A Prairie Home Companion because I figured I should see Altman’s last film, and it was just sitting there on the shelf at the library looking right at me. And then it occurred to me that this might make a great double feature. But alas, it is not a great double feature. Nashville is undeniably a masterwork, A Prairie Home Companion is much less. I suppose, at a deeper level, it might be an interesting comparison for someone else to do. I’m sure someone already has.

[Nashville = quintessential Altman, a paragon of his oeuvre. A Prairie Home Companion = less like an Altman film and more like a muddled Alan Rudolph film.]

What I did think about is the idea of a career-arc, and how quickly time flies, and how the span of time can disappear when you have two DVDs in your hand that represent work done 30 years apart. Consider these two parings of images:

Tomlin in A Prairie Home Companion


Tomlin in Nashville


Altman on the set for A Prairie Home Companion


Altman in 1974 (on the set for Nashville?)

Both of these individuals are (Tomlin) or were (Altman) gifted artists. But like me, they are mortal. I am reminded of that quote attributed to Woody Allen: “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.” I found watching these two films back to back to be a somewhat sobering experience (and therefore a good experience). I found myself wondering what it is that I will leave behind when I’m gone. What will be my legacy?

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2 responses to “>a legacy

  1. >I still haven’t seen Nashville yet, but I did enjoy Prairie Home Companion. Though not nearly as good as Altman’s other, more prominent films (The Player, Gosford Park, etc) it did retain enough of his personality to make it worthwhile in my eyes.The most interesting thing about it to me was, as you point out, the themes of mortality. I think Altman knew he was near the end when he was making it. In fact, I didn’t see the film until after his death and I think it’s almost more powerful and meaningful in the light of that. The last scene especially, when the Angel Virginian Madsen enters the diner and the four characters turn and look at her (each wondering which one of them it is to be). She then advances on the camera and they cut to oustide, never revealling which one she took. So, who was she coming for? I think I know the answer. She was coming for the director, the man behind the camera.As for your legacy… well, I can’t tell what other people are going to say about you, Tuck, and what you meant to them, but I know what I’ll say. I won’t do so here because I don’t want to embarass you.

  2. >Damian, thanks for commenting. I certainly do think A Prarie Home Companion is a worthwhile film, at least in the context of Altman’s life and filmmaking history. But it is interesting to watch it back to back with Nashville, which is such a brilliant film. Because of that I found the former to be rather flat, but still fine. In the context of Altman’s life, however, as you point out, it is a very poignant film. I like your take on who the angel comes for at the end. That makes a lot of sense. One could add that the angel comes for all of us eventually.As for my legacy, thanks for not embarassing me! 😉

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