The Gambler

One of Robert Altman’s finest took big risks with movie conventions

Funny how, some three decades later, the antiwar film M*A*S*H is considered a classic war movie and McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971) is now deemed a classic Western, though it’s set in the snowy Pacific Northwest, after the closing of the frontier, and without any proper cowboys in sight. Warren Beatty stumbles into town as

perhaps the least impressive cardsharp in movie history. Julie Christie, as the town madam, is considerably smarter about

money and sex. And their love story—though it’s hardly that—also resists the usual resolution of a couple on horseback riding into the sunset. The two are entrepreneurs, petty capitalists whose thriving town brothel becomes a takeover target of larger corporate interests. And while Altman

always sides with the little guy, he knows which powers will inevitably prevail in such a contest (see his last movie, A Prairie Home Companion, for a reiteration of the same theme). McCabe is an elegy for a town that failed, for a relationship that didn’t work, and for the whole fading Western genre. It’s also one of Altman’s very best pictures. (R)

Wed., March 5, 6:45 & 9:15 p.m., 2008

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