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McCabe & Mrs. Miller (Z Channel Presents)

McCabe & Mrs. Miller (Z Channel Presents)

McCabe & Mrs. Miller (Z Channel Presents)

1971 / 120min / 35mm



Hailed by critc Pauline Kael as “a beautiful pipe dream of a movie,” Altman’s snowbound western sets its scene in the ramshackle, snowbound Washington State town of Presbyterian, where wandering gambler Warren Beatty decides to stick around after striking up a partnership with Julie Christie’s madam, a fraught but profitable teaming that’s threatened by encroaching corporate interests. A film of indelible atmosphere, thanks to the uniquely foggy photography of Vilmos Zsigmond—achieved by “flashing” the negative before exposure—and the droning vocals of Leonard Cohen on the soundtrack.

Original Z Channel Notes:

"McCabe & Mrs. Miller is Robert Altman’s filmic essay on greed and the profit motive beautifully disguised as a frontier tale. The setting is a tiny turn-of-the-century mining town in the Pacific Northwest, where a gambler named John McCabe (Warren Beatty) and a level-headed madam named Mrs. Miller (Julie Christie) go into business together and start a bordello. Their enterprise thrives, but the town itself is threatened by the arrival of agents for a large mining company that want to purchase the land rights from the citizens. Big business vs. small business, yes . . . but a whorehouse is exploitation, too, and nobody’s hands are truly clean, as Mrs. Miller’s periodic retreats into an opium-induced haze can attest.

This is the story of a corporate takeover in its most primitive form, but McCabe & Mrs. Miller’s visual style is a pure period piece. Christie gives one of her best performances as Mrs. Miller, a woman who runs a clean, no-nonsense house, looks after her girls with brusque affection and keeps one eye perpetually on the till. Beatty’s performance is expansive, lively and touched with an air of boyish enthusiasm that belies McCabe’s checkered past. Stunningly photographed by Vilmos Zsigmond and utilizing Altman’s familiar penchant for dense, multilayered soundtracks, McCabe & Mrs. Miller is a wonderful, splendidly crafted film."—Janet Lorenz