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Robert Altman’s Subliminal Reality

2002
Author:

Robert T. Self

Robert Altman’s Subliminal Reality

The most complete and compelling analysis available of Altman’s films

In Robert Altman’s Subliminal Reality, Robert T. Self sheds light on Altman’s work and provides the most comprehensive analysis of his films to date. With close readings of classics like MASH, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, and Nashville, as well as more recent films like The Player, Short Cuts, and Cookie’s Fortune, Self asserts the value of Altman’s work not only to film theory and the entertainment industry but to American culture itself.

This book applies current theory with intellectual rigor and deep commitment to the films of one of our most important contemporary filmmakers. Robert Self's connection of Altman's texts to contemporary critical discourse will make this book the most important on its subject.

Robert Kolker, author of Film, Form, and Culture and the third edition of A Cinema of Loneliness

With his complex and unconventional films, Robert Altman often draws an impassioned response from critics but bafflement and indifference from the general public. Some audiences have dismissed his movies as insignificant, unsatisfying, and unreadable. Ironically, Altman might agree: he makes films in order to challenge filmgoers’s expectations of straightforward narratives and easily understood endings.

In Robert Altman’s Subliminal Reality, Robert T. Self sheds light on Altman’s work and provides the most comprehensive analysis of his films to date. With close readings of classics like MASH, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, and Nashville, as well as more recent films like The Player, Short Cuts, and Cookie’s Fortune, Self asserts the value of Altman’s work not only to film theory and the entertainment industry but to American culture itself.

In his analysis, Self identifies Altman’s films particularly as they address issues of form, identity, and industry. He explains how Altman critiques moviemaking forms by using an open, fragmented mode of storytelling and by turning conventional Hollywood genres inside out. He examines Altman’s characterization of social and individual identity as fragile and fragmentary and his depiction of antiheroic characters debilitated by their socially constructed gender roles. Finally, Self shows how Altman challenges the entertainment industry itself, questioning its methods and motives and critiquing its role in our cultural alienation.

Self frames his study of Altman’s work with a discussion of the director’s efforts to create a "subliminal reality" in his narratives—to touch audiences on an unconscious level and to recognize the unspoken, and unspeakable, dimensions in human interactions. According to Self, this striving for "subliminal reality" makes Altman’s films not only exemplary of the potential of art cinema narration but instrumental in keeping such narrative alive.


Robert Altman’s Subliminal Reality

Robert T. Self is professor of English at Northern Illinois University.

Robert Altman’s Subliminal Reality

This book applies current theory with intellectual rigor and deep commitment to the films of one of our most important contemporary filmmakers. Robert Self's connection of Altman's texts to contemporary critical discourse will make this book the most important on its subject.

Robert Kolker, author of Film, Form, and Culture and the third edition of A Cinema of Loneliness

Robert Altman’s Subliminal Reality

Contents

Introduction: Authorial Voices

Part I. Narrative Formations

1. Reading Strategies: Constructing
2. New American Cinema and
3. Art-Cinema Narration:
4. Generic Art: Romance and Adventure

Part II. Identities in Patriarchy

5. Masculine Subjects: Nixon, Tanner, and the Gingerbread Man
6. Resisting Women: Madness, Dreams, and Art

Part III. Putting on the Show

7. Reflexive Show Business: Nashville and the Wild West
8. Fiction’s Fashion: Paris Originals and Hollywood Imitations
9. Worlds Elsewhere:

Conclusion: The Alternative Gaze

Acknowledgments
Robert Altman Filmography

Bibliography
Permissions

Index