Nashville Robert Altman 1975 USA

Nashville Robert Altman 1975 USA

I had forgotten what a terrific assemblage Nashville comprises. A series of interfolded action strips and situations, and vignettes all encapsulated within the idea of documenting American society in the throws of undergoing the transformations that were visible in the 1970’s but are now in the 21st century, virtually complete. So we see in Nashville a society which is being taken over by disembodied entities. A society being colonised by political parties and large corporations and the social interests that they front. A society in which personal values are dying and replaced by amoral greed and materialism disguised as fake sentimentality. . A society in which people no longer represented by themselves but images of themselves. A society in which the people no longer exist.

Nashville Robert Altman 1975 USA :
script: Jane Tewkesbury: cast: Ned Beatty, Karen Black, Shelly
Duvalle , Keith Carradine, Geraldine Chaplin,

Viewed Tyneside Film Theatre 26 7 06
ticket price £6-00

Voices of the Disembodied…

I had forgotten what a terrific
assemblage Nashville comprises. A series of interfolded action
strips and situations, and vignettes all encapsulated within the idea
of documenting American society in the throws of undergoing the
transformations that were visible in the 1970’s but are now in the
21st century, virtually complete. So we see in Nashville
a society which is being taken over by disembodied entities. A
society being colonised by political parties and large corporations
and the social interests that they front. A society in which
personal values are dying and replaced by amoral greed and
materialism disguised as fake sentimentality. . A society in which
people no longer represented by themselves but images of themselves.
A society in which the people no longer exist.

Giles Deleuze notes, “ ….that if
there were a modern political cinema, it would be on this basis…the
people are missing.”* Epic American cinema in the tradition of
Ford Capra or Vidor testifies to the existence of a people, in
hardships as well as in ways of recovering and rediscovering
themselves. In Nashville, the home of the C and W music a form which
had its roots in the folk traditions of the Appalachian country
regions, whose initial articulation and expression stemmed from these
roots, the people as a dynamic are constrained and marginalised into
a passive fulfillment of desire by the mechanisms of power. Deleuze
continues, “…if the people are missing, there is no longer
consciousness evolution or revolution, it is the scheme of reversal
which in itself becomes impossible.” Nashville is an epic film
exposing the social mechanisms that have lead to the disappearance of
the people and the appearance of the consumer. . A society in which
people no longer represent themselves but are represented by images
of themselves.

At the heart of the film, from the
beginning of the first sequence proper at the airport, (There is an
opening title sequence during which the BBC reporter in Nashville
visits the recording studio where Karen Black and Ned Beatty are both
cutting records) we hear the voice of a disembodied political message
from the truck mounted loud speaker calling on the people to vote for
the Replacement Party. The truck mounted loudspeaker with its
political message is a constant presence folded into each segment of
the film as a subliminal message, bland yet insistent calling on the
people who are always absent in this voided city, to vote for change
by going back to a past, a mythic past that is the invention of the
advertising industry and public relations industry. Although of
course the Replacement Party message, subliminally inserted into the
body of the film eventually leads us to Altman’s kitsch denoument
of assassination, its real function seems to be to say that
underlying all aspects of life in the USA today is a disembodied
mechanical political imperative: the reality of who owns America and
the interests of greed and accumulation that they represent. With
this disembodied and remote reiterated political message continually
issuing from the sound system, it is difficult to hear and understand
what is being said. There seems to be a meta message that is
actually in play that says simply that things are and will be OK.
The political voices, the corporate voices use words in a particular
way. They are common words yet like ivy they twist themselves round
commonplace ideas and notions and strangle the life out of them
through a process of steady banal misrepresentation of meaning. The
political voice pervades Nashville but no one heeds it. Increasingly
no one is there.

In Nashville, Altman documents his cast
as they parade through various locations: airport, car crash,
hospital, diners, clubs, home, church, hotels, bed, performance,
political rally. Often these situations comprise sequences that are
captured in one long choreographed shot. As Altman moves the players
through these situations it is clear that some people belong to the
past and that some belong or are conditioned for the future. The
casualties the old man whose wife is dying, Sue Ellen the Madonna
like Country star have decency and a direct truthfulness of being
that condemns them to be victims of the processes of the times. For
the rest some survive with the necessary accommodations but it is the
representatives of the disembodied who materially thrive, those whose
future it is to be ciphers of the image, whether their own or of a
large corporate body.

The final act of Nashville is pure
comedy. As Sue Ellen is led away bleeding to death, the massed black
choirs assembled for the rally sing the final song of the film.

“You tell me I ain’t free: I
don’t care, I don’t care…”

This refrain is sung over and over
again until the words becoem totally meaningless in their repetition.
This is the final political message delivered by Altman, the blacks
fronted by a trashy white wananbee sing out the message the real
message of the black revolution, that they are disappearing – along
with everyone else in the USA, and that they don’t care.

Adrin Neatrour 11 Au8 06

* Giles Deleauze – Cinema 2 pp216
University of Minnesota Press

adrinuk@yahoo.co.uk

Author: Adrin Neatrour

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