A movie called "Nashville"

By Ray Sawhill


Salon Staff
July 5, 2000 11:47PM (UTC)

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Reading Ray Sawhill's thoughtful and passionate encomium to "Nashville" was like driving through the desert and hearing a Patsy Cline song break through the static. This is the kind of article that justifies Salon's very existence, exploring a worthy subject with the kind of depth and informed point of view that the contemporary media usually eschews. It doesn't hurt that Sawhill's subject is, to my mind, the single greatest American movie -- but he did it justice.

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-- Jack Lechner

Is there anything that Altman did not say with "Nashville"? Apparently not, and Ray Sawhill does an impeccable job of showing us. Sawhill should be proud of himself. Not only has he written a great historical piece on what I consider to be the greatest American film ever made, he has written an astounding love poem. As a former NYU student who fell in love with the art of moviemaking upon watching a slew of Altman pictures, it brings me great joy to know that there are people out there, like Sawhill, who recognize the urgency and significance that are inherent in the works of Altman. Bravo.

-- Ed Gonzalez

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As a stereotypical struggling filmmaker, I'm thrilled by such a descriptive, insightful and long review of Robert Altman's "Nashville." For a lot of younger filmmakers and students, Altman remains an enigma, and we must struggle to remember the incendiary fire of his '70s output.

And while I might think that Sawhill is a bit pessimistic about the current state of cinema, I do take issue with one facet of "Nashville" that both he and a few other reviewers fail to mention.

"Nashville" is an amazing film, but also a very condescending and snide swipe at popular culture -- and especially country music. It feels like a hipster's take on country bumpkins. If we only judged a city by its tourist attractions, we would conclude that New York is a magical Disney theme park.

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The scene where singer Barbara Jean breaks down and the crowd turns on her is ludicrous. As Greil Marcus has pointed out, country music fans have tremendous allegiance to their singers, and would probably rush the stage to help, rather than booing and throwing things.

Hollywood and New York have never really understood or appreciated country music, even though it continues to be one of the music industry's most consistently lucrative fields. Why else would Keith Carradine win an Oscar for writing such mediocre country songs? "Nashville" is a stunning technical achievement, but Altman's shallow hipster mentality does the city and the film a great disservice.

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-- Matthew Buchholz

Ray Sawhill's article on Robert Altman's "Nashville" was certainly thought-provoking, but I find it incomprehensible that an article of that length and depth -- and one that focuses so much attention on the female characters in the movie -- completely avoids mention of Gwen Welles' performance as Sueleen Gay. That performance is what I remember about "Nashville." Along with the scene where Lily Tomlin watches from the bar audience as Keith Carradine sings "I'm Easy," Welles' reluctant striptease was -- for me at least -- the most moving scene in the film. That scene best captured one of the film's major themes: the desperate search for stardom and recognition in the superficial world of Nashville in the '70s.

-- John Huttlin

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