Friday, November 24, 2006
have Robert Altman on the brain for obvi reasons. "M*A*S*H" is a strange movie to watch on Thanksgiving, but hey...
one thing i'm thinking about is how this nothing even remotely resembling this movie could be made today. think about war-set comedies as we know them, and every last one of them takes a moralistic turn, from "Good Morning, Vietnam" to "Three Kings." "M*A*S*H" has no clear-cut message whatsoever, but there's definitely something disturbing about "the zany antics of our combat surgeons" being juxtaposed with extremely gory scenes of open-chest surgery.
aside from the backdrop of war, the movie is basically "Meatballs" or "Revenge of the Nerds or something"--complete with the classic broadcasting of sex sounds, shower barge-in and farcical football match. the absurdity never lets up, but you feel vaguely uneasy the whole time. "Suicide Is Painless," the incredibly disturbing glassy-eyed folk-pop theme song, sort of sets the tone: it's a blank song--melancholy, but also numb. when it takes on new meaning as the "funeral" song for the impotent dentist Painless, you just don't know what to think. basically the movie makes you uncomfortable both in your laughter and in your attempt to read any sort of message into it. A.O. Scott does a good job of expressing this ambiguity in his Times Altman tribute.
another thing that struck me was how it really seems to me as if the personas of Elliott Gould and Donald Sutherland in this film are the prototypes for what we now refer to as hipsters: rakish, witheringly sarcastic, dilletantish (check out the golf scene) and with this sort of studied absurdity about the way they dress and act. that sounds really lame and academic but if you watch the movie, you could totally see Hawkeye and Trapper John holding court in Williamsburg. Gould's moustache pretty much says it all.
anyway, it's dumb to make plans, but i'm going to try to watch a whole bunch of Altman. haven't seen "Nashville" in forever and i feel like i need to revisit that. just seeing Michael Murphy for five minutes in "M*A*S*H" gave me a serious appetite for more of that dude's inimitable mild drawl.
this is kind of major for a fkkking p.s.: did anyone else realize that Altman's (at the time) 14-year-old son, Mike, wrote the lyrics to "Suicide Is Painless"??!! that's kind of mindblowing. maybe Wikipedia is a taking me for a ride tho... see for yourself.