Recently, I've become aware that certain films are able to transcend the medium by being completely self-assured in their atmospheres…
1 woman became 2, 2 women became 3, 3 women became 1
Pinky is an awkward young teen who starts work at a spa in the CA. Desert. She becomes overly attached to fellow spa attendant, Millie when she becomes Millie's roommate. Mille is a lonely outcast who desperately tries to win attention with constant upbeat chatter. They hang out at a bar owned by a strange pregnant artist and her has-been cowboy husband. After each of 2 emotional crises, the three woman steal and trade each other's personalities until they settle into a new family unit that seems to give each woman what she was searching for.
Born from a dream and sharing the same inconsistent logic, Robert Altman’s 3 Women is a strange and elusive drama exploring the transitory nature of identities. Although best known for his narratively complex ensemble dramas it is Altman’s experimental chamber pieces that provide some of his most interesting work.
As the title implies, 3 Women, is centred on the complicated and shifting relationships between three women in the Californian desert. Sissy Spacek stars as the naive Pinky, a young woman from Texas who becomes obsessed with her colleague and roommate, Millie (Shelley Duvall). Millie is a woman with a deluded sense of confidence who is blindly ignored by all those around her. The third woman in this triumvirate is Janice…
I admire Altman's craft, certainly, when he delivers images like Millie crossing a massive mural of mutated, naked human beings with their genitals askew and erect, their faces distorted in what looks to me like horror. Or when he shows just a bit of Millie's dress sticking out from her car door (the first image I needed to capture in this film) or Pinky's curled, broken form in the pool (or just before, standing up to the rail). Some of these evoke wonder, some horror, some just surreal desire (what can I say). But.
Well, before but. Everyone seems to talk about how the three women merge into one balanced being or whatever, but no one really seems to reflect…
A lot of Altman's films feel like dreams to me but this was the only one literally based on one. It is also the one that by the end, appears unfinished, like all dreams, but still feels like a full journey has been taken. Altman received the green light from 20th Century Fox without a finished screenplay, only the dream idea and who would play the leads. Further evidence of how much influence was turned over to these rule-breaking maverick filmmakers in the 70s. Makes modern studio output look like the nightmarish comittee-approved, watered down, juvenile-marketed, Twilight Zoney counter-universe that we all know it has become.
Not much to add to my Time Out New York review, written for its Film Forum run in 2002, back when there was still no DVD. I've seen this three times now and on both repeat viewings it's turned out to be much weirder and more impervious to analysis than I remembered. That's mostly a good thing.
An insert provided with the DVD of Mulholland Drive offers "David Lynch's ten clues to unlocking this thriller," directing confused viewers to "notice appearances of the red lampshade" and "pay particular attention to the beginning of the film." Robert Altman's 3 Women—a tour de force of dream logic set in Southern California, involving two young women whose identities shift like tectonic…
I cannot begin to fathom, let alone fashion, a proper response to such pure cinematic poetry. As with seeing STRAW DOGS and KING LEAR before it, here is another of those all too terribly rare lucid viewing experiences. Discovering this film tonight, on 35mm, makes me feel confident that more or less waiting to thoroughly investigate Robert Altman's work by way of UCLA's very near-complete retrospective is a kind of incredible (if incidental) fortune. I'll also never forget the nameless man in tonight's audience who suddenly stood up during the film's final reel, as if unable to sit, and never sat back down until the end credits. It may be nothing, it may remain unexplained, but part of me feels as if the film elicited such an intense kinesthetic response (discomfort? terror? confusion?) that - for this man - sitting was simply not an option.
the failure of an attempted escape from a self-replicating cycle of inherited behavior, a whirlpool of prescribed femininity, its transmission from generation to generation a form of psychological transference. Janice Rule fires bullet after bullet at a picture of a snake eating its own tail.
Robert Altman's mysterious and quite extraordinary metaphysical drama about the interlinked lives of three enigmatic women (Shelley Duvall, Sissy Spacek and Janice Rule) living in a sparsely populated California desert town is one of the mercurial director's great films. Inspired by a dream that the venerable Altman loosely translated into a filmable treatment, 3 Women is a unique, captivating and frequently disturbing experience, a prolonged reverie offering little in the way of clarity or reason behind its strange and startling rhythms but one that holds you utterly entranced by way of its stunning performances and peerless technique. A masterpiece.
So enigmatic that it's difficult to put in classification. That might be due to subverting expectations and being open to numerous meanings—a haunting reality, a singular dream or several dreams as the collective women are symbolic of one person. Mysterious and exquisite in equal measure. Hi-def Criterion for the absolute win.
The seventies and the eighties were incredibly fruitful for director Robert Altman. After the success of MASH, he was given carte blanche by Twentieth Century Fox. As a result of this wealth of freedom, he wrote, produced, and directed 3 Women, which, according to the director, was born entirely out of a dream that he had while his wife was in the hospital.
3 Women is Altman’s magnum opus – ethereal, surreal, and carried by two magnificent performances from Shelley Duvall and Sissy Spacek. Bearing similarities to Bergman’s Persona, 3 Women is the tale of two twenty-something’s, Millie Lammoreaux (Duvall) and Pinky Rose (Spacek) who meet one another at the geriatric spa in California where they both work. Pinky is…
Based, in part, on a fever dream Robert Altman had while his wife lay nearby, incapacitated and hospital-bed-sick, 3 Women comes at the tail-end of the most prolific decade of Altman’s career. While big-budget studios cashed in on the new paradigm of blockbuster success spear-headed by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, Altman followed-up his own commercial success (Nashville) with a narratively surreal little art-house film about a pair of unlikely friends who pretty much end up trading personalities. Consider it a Southern Californian take on Bergman’s Persona, and you’re really only touching on a small part of Altman’s weirdness: largely improvised and steeped in oneiric imagery, the film begs to be watched repeatedly, each successive viewing not so much clarifying…
Altman's twisted tale of then-contemporary female vampirism/identity theft. The sense of dread is overblown to almost cosmic proportions; the score is fit for a more traditional horror picture, Altman's camera both obscures and captures, and as a viewer you cannot trust anyone to be who they appear to be. Loved the hypersensitive sound design when supporting characters would quietly respond to either Duvall or Spacek. Altman claims that the idea for this film came to him in a dream, and I can believe it; watching it is a lot like living in one. Though I had seen his final feature (A Prairie Home Companion) some years back, I consider this to be my proper introduction to the director. Wish I had more to say right now but I can feel that it is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Wholly unprepared to even begin parsing this, though it works so well as a pure experience that I'm not certain it even needs to be interpreted. Its dream-logic unfolds with such precision that the totality is just such a pleasure to revel in, even if my inability to form any coherent thoughts on it does also temper my admiration. Needless to say, second viewing required. But it's easily one of the most enigmatic film experiences I've ever had. Arresting from the first frame to the last.
Equal parts entrancing and exhausting, Altman's '3 Women' is a darkly hypnotic and seductive cinematic nightmare.
Far more unsettling than I imagined it would be... 3 Women feels like a fever dream caught on film.
Echoes of Persona...
Many favorites, as well as a small handful of films that I don't care for... in no particular order (1960-2014).