In this week’s New York Times Critic’s Pick, A.O. Scott takes a look at Robert Altman’s The Player, which he calls, “perhaps the greatest Hollywood satire ever made.”
Of course, a statement like this is bound to arouse contention, but the fact is, Scott’s right. There is no other film as sensitive to the mores of the business and the slippery people who engage it. Like M*A*S*H and Nashville, and Altman’s other masterpieces, The Player is pure anthropology.
If the movie feels more alive than other movies, it’s because it is. Where others use only canned vegetables, Altman goes for the organic. “Making a film is like painting a mural,” he said in the film’s DVD Commentary, “You’ve got this big wall to fill and you’ve got a subject, and the only difference is, as you got up there and you’re painting it, you’ve got living pigment. So you’ve let me paint a horse over here in the upper-right-hand corner and you turn around and look bak and the horse is moving across the stage and you have to quickly paint a fence. You have to kind of control it, but you’re dealing with a living thing that’s really forming itself. So you’re sitting up there doing damage control all the time. But the style in which one paints these films is…their personality, it’s what they do, it’s their artistry.”