Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Player

Robert Altman made phenomenal, biting, slice-of-life films in a way that no one else can make them; Altman drops you into his characters world, introduces a conflict and before the entire world makes too much sense he pulls you back out again, but Altman’s worlds change you forever.

In The Player Griffin Mill is a high powered executive at a movie studio, he is a man that hold the dreams of writers and directors in his hands as he has the power to give projects the go ahead; however, as most executives in the industry he doesn’t feel he has the time to “be nice” which sometimes means he leaves the people that pitch him hanging and never responds. This is all par for the course for Griffin until one writer won’t take it anymore and begins to stalk Griffin and threaten to kill him. As if this weren’t enough Griffin is also facing what he thinks is a premeditated murder of his career as the studio head brings in Larry Levy to be another Vice President.

I know that if you are familiar with film history I am about to beat a dead horse, but I cannot discuss The Player without discussing the first shot of the film – the shot that lasts eight minutes of the film. If you are a film newbie or have never made your own movie you really have no idea how hard setting up a shot is; you have to think about where to place your lights so that the camera won’t see them, where the actors are going to move, where sound can be – there are hundreds of minute details that need to be in place in order to capture a shot – and that is for a static shot. Altman did his first shot of The Player as a moving shot so he had to stage people, cars and bikes crossing the frame on queue, the camera, actors and props had to be in the right place at the same time all the while those not on camera had too keep moving and doing what they were doing because at any moment the camera would move back to where they are to continue the scene. The work and time Altman, cast and crew had to put into that one shot had to be absolutely insane.

I do love Altman’s take on the world and I am very glad that all of his films are incredibly diverse. I do have to say that The Player would probably be on my list of favorite Altman films.

Director: Robert Altman
Writer: Michael Tolkin
Griffin Mill: Tim Robbins
June Gudmundsdottir: Greta Scacchi
Det. Avery: Whoopi Goldberg
Larry Levy: Peter Gallagher
Bonnie Sherow: Cynthia Stevenson
David Kahane: Vincent D’Onofrio

Griffin Mill: It lacked certain elements that we need to market a film successfully.
June: What elements?
Griffin Mill: Suspense, laughter, violence. Hope, heart, nudity, sex. Happy endings. Mainly happy endings.

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