Nashville (1975) DVD / a film by Robert Altman; starring Ned Beatty, Karen Black, Shelly Duvall, Lily Tomlin and Keith Carradine
"Y'all take it easy now. This isn't Dallas, it's Nashville! They can't do this to us here in Nashville! Let's show them what we're made of. Come on everybody, sing! Somebody, sing!"
Central to the American heartland is Nashville, home to Music Row, the Grand Ole Opry and numerous characters--musicians, event promoters, press agents, studio managers, etc.--involved with country music. In the summer of 1975, replacement party presidential candidate Hal Philip Walker is campaigning in Nashville, intending to hold a public rally at the city's Parthenon monument. The event, highlighted by the charismatic, buzz-worthy Walker, brings people from far and wide who intermingle with Nashville locals, participate in its festive atmosphere and partake of all it has to offer. Celebrities and semi-celebrities conglomerate to entertain the rally-goers just as lesser-known and unknowns try to get in on the action. Country music legends like Haven Hamilton and Timothy Brown, current starlets Connie White and Barbara Jean along with group acts like folk rock trio Bill, Mary and Tom are the scheduled performers though, to be sure, various wannabe acts will attempt to integrate themselves into the scene. Things may seem a little crazy, a little unfamiliar to the outside eye, but it's sure to be a one of a kind spectacle destined to entertain.
Almost 30 years after its initial release, Nashville, Robert Altman's brilliant slice of Americana, has aged as well as anything. Made during the Vietnam era when Watergate was still fresh in the public's conscious (Nixon's resignation actually spawning the film's concept of a "replacement party" candidate), the film has lost none of its appeal; ironically, it's as relevant today as ever, perhaps more so within the celebrity-obsessed culture we inhabit. A snapshot of a single place and time, Nashville is as much about politics as it is country music, as much focused on families as it is on fame and stardom. It's a black comedy, a musical, a political satire and a documentary all in one, effortlessly and effectively interwoven by Altman into one mesmerizing cinematic production. In another way, Nashville is a character study, a film almost voyeuristically delving into the lives of the individuals within this peculiar cross-section of society. Rather than tell a story in a well-defined, contiguous pattern, scenes jump around from place to place, person to person, loosely interconnecting everything in graduated fashion, a method Altman would similarly adopt in his later films Short Cuts and Gosford Park. This overlapping style (definitely a moldbreaking nuance in those days) fits perfectly with the panoramic view of five days in the city, observing the 20 or so characters--some lifetime locals, some starry-eyed new arrivals and some complete foreigners--who all engross the viewer in clever fashion, capturing the identities of you-know-who-they-really-mean country music stars and other composite figures. Although he tosses aside the conventions of narrative storytelling, Altman allows us to get to know the characters in Nashville better than in many contemporary dramas with fewer characters. By the end the audience thoroughly understands each figure and their place and function within this eccentric though purely American setting--just maybe "the damndest thing you ever saw". (DVD NASHVILL)