New York Times - 01/21/1994
"...A lyrical and hardhearted masterpiece....Two of the best performances of [Beatty's and Christie's] careers..."
Chicago Sun-Times - 11/14/1999
"...The film is a poem -- an elegy for the dead....Few film have such an overwhelming sense of location..."
Entertainment Weekly - 06/21/2002
"...One of Robert Altman's best....The film's real strength is its offbeat characters and their mood-drenched milieu..."
USA Today - 06/07/2002
"...A visual marvel..."
Empire - 05/01/2010
"[T]his film is unique. Two decades before UNFORGIVEN san its elegiac refrain, Altman cast Western mythology in a new, unforgiving light."
Total Film - 01/01/2011 5 stars out of 5 -- "Altman remixes western heroism to the tunes of fatalism, failure and wintry Leonard Cohen songs..."
A haunting, poetic anti-Western based on the 1959 novel by Edmund Naughton, Robert Altman's MCCABE AND MRS. MILLER is a deeply moving motion picture about love and the pursuit of wealth in 19th-century America.
John McCabe (Warren Beatty), a determined businessman with a mysterious past, settles in the small Northwestern town of Presbyterian Church and opens up a saloon and brothel. Soon after, the brothel's madam, an Englishwoman named Constance Miller (Julie Christie), arrives and forms a partnership with McCabe in order to manage the brothel's business affairs. McCabe has trouble expressing his true feelings to Mrs. Miller, with whom he has fallen in love; she, in turn, relies on opium to distract her from her personal sorrows. After a powerful company arrives and offers to buy out McCabe's property, his stubborn refusal ends up jeopardizing his life, resulting in a showdown with three hired killers in the middle of a freak blizzard. Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond's faded imagery-purposely manipulated by "flashing" the film stock before shooting--along with production designer Leon Ericksen's authentically created town, brings to life a past world that is tinged with an underlying sadness, a feeling that is heightened by Leonard Cohen's melancholy soundtrack. Beatty, as the lovesick McCabe, and Christie, who was nominated for an Oscar as the hard-nosed Mrs. Miller, deliver heartfelt and convincing performances.
Widely hailed as one of the top ten motion pictures of the 1970s, this Western follows an entrepreneurial drifter with a hidden past. John McCabe builds a makeshift brothel and casino in a small Pacific Northwest mining town during the turn of the century who finds an unlikely a assistant in a world-weary, opium-smoking British madame. Featuring outstanding performances by Warren Beatty and Julie Christie, MCCABE AND MRS. MILLER is yet another outstanding revisionist genre film from acclaimed director Robert Altman.
Character Study |
Essential Cinema |
Small Town Life |
Theatrical Release: June 24, 1971.
Filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia,
Based on the 1959 novel by Edmund Naughton.
Screened at the 33rd Spoleto Festival (Cinema in the Bordello) in 1990.
Initially, the film's climax was supposed to take place in the rain, but a freak snowstorm inspired Altman to film it during a blizzard, a "natural disaster" that helped him forge a powerful and unforgettable ending.
Robert Altman didn't conceive of using Leonard Cohen's music until the film was in post-production. He'd listened to Cohen's music at an earlier creative period in his life, only to have it resurface in his head in Paris while vacationing after the wrap of MCCABE AND MRS. MILLER.
Cohen was such a fan of Altman's earlier BREWSTER MCCLOUD (1970) that he made Columbia Records let Altman use his music for free, as well as giving him a percentage of all subsequent sales of his record after the movie was released.