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Let Us Now Praise Altman


NO SHORT CUTS TAKEN: Among the many gifts qualifying robert_altman.jpg for the descriptive title as “late, great American director” was his inspired way with music in his films. He addressed musical culture and its hosting environment directly Nashville and Kansas City, and made music integral in films including McCabe and Mrs. Miller, with key Leonard Cohen tunes setting the languid frontier tone, and his finale, A Prairie Home Companion, chock full of good musical times. To boot, Altman’s films always had musical corollaries, with their ambient spirits and collaborative élan. We spoke with Altman many moons ago, just at 1990’s European production Vincent and Theo was making its way to these shores—and when Altman’s own renewed cred in Hollywood allowed him to return to these shores, as well, after a period of avoiding the dull fake gleam of ‘80s tinsel town. At the time, he was preparing his Raymond Carver adaptation Short Cuts, one of several compelling projects—including The Player and Gosford Park—which made his last artistic phase so rich Back when, I mentioned to Altman that his films gained power through their atmospheric qualities. He took that as a compliment, as intended: “It’s not the story so much. The story is there is something that will occupy the viewers in linear time. They are linear; they do take a certain amount of time. It’s not like looking at a painting, unfortunately, where you can look at it as long or as short as you want. But I’m trying to impress people the same way you do with a painting, by making impressions so that material is in their computer and they can apply it to other themes that occur.” As to the question of whether film is more analogous to music than to theater and literature, Altman commented “I’d relate it more to painting, actually, and also music and dance—movement. But we can’t argue with the American success chip out there. Those dollar bills and how many you have dictates how good you are.” Our interview wrapped up thusly:

Q: Have you always felt like an outsider in Hollywood? A: Well, no. I never joined the club particularly anyway, so it was never any of my desire. I do my work. Everything I do is collaborative. I love it. With everything I see and do, I see something new, too, and that’s what I’m passing on to an audience. Q: So you’re not the kind of maniacal auteur who likes to keep his thumb on everything? A: Nope. I like to keep my nose in everything, but not my thumb on it.

TALENT-DESERVING-WIDER-RECOGNITION DEPT.: Alto saxophonist David Binney is clearly one of those should-be towering jazz figures too little known here, although the European jazz scene is well aware of his prowess and unique musical persona. Around these parts, many know him as someone from around these parts. He was raised in Ventura and his mother, the abiding jazz fan Dolores, lived in Carpinteria for years until her passing of cancer last year. 2006 has been an especially productive year for Binney, who released not one but two impressive albums: Out of Airplanes, on Binney’s own Mythology label, David_Binney.jpgwas recorded in Seattle and features oblique guitar hero Bill Frisell as creative ally, along with drummer Kenny Wolleson and the wondrous keyboardist Craig Taborn, also part of the new album Cities and Desire, on Criss Cross. Both albums demonstrate Binney’s distinctive voice as composer and player, one which can be intense but underscored with an angular, sophisticated sense of beauty and longing. TO-DOINGS: Contemporary music aficionados, get thee to UCSB’s Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall tonight, as the Ensemble for Contemporary Music gives its fall concert. This one includes the first public performances by the University’s new Corwin Chair holder, Clarence Barlow, who will also be feted at next spring’s “Primavera” festival. (got e? fringebeat@independent.com). 468x60 Banner banner

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