Kansas City

Director: Robert Altman
USA/France / 1996 / 116 min

Last streamed on Sat, Dec 26

Live Screening followed by a Q&A with producer Matthew Seig, actor Michael Murphy, and Stephen Altman, moderated by Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan.

Set in the Midwestern metropolis and era of Robert Altman’s youth, Kansas City dovetails in many ways with his more celebrated Nashville, each location a milieu for a homegrown music style (in this case jazz) that defines local culture, each ensemble peppered with real-life musicians. Holding court in 1934 K.C. is Seldom Seen (Harry Belafonte in a chilling, image-altering turn), the ruthless owner of the Hey Hey Club and captor of a local thief whose wife (Jennifer Jason Leigh, channeling Jean Harlow) will do anything to free him—even kidnap an influential politician’s wife (Miranda Richardson). Altman crowds the frame with shrewd social observations (Steve Buscemi recurs as a politico seeking to buy the votes of drunks and drifters), but most memorable is the nearly unbroken soundtrack (a Billboard chart-climber), performed live for the camera and highlighted by a tenor sax battle to Noble Sissle’s “Yeah, Man”—jazz’s answer to Deliverance’s “Dueling Banjos.”