Writer-director Robert Altman’s frigid drama set in a post-apocalyptic ice age compresses one of his favorite premises—the loner who navigates a corrupt society—into a highly unusual, minimalist fable. At times resembling a future Western, it sketches a story in which seal hunter Essex (Paul Newman) and his pregnant wife wander through a snowy wasteland into the ruins of a frozen city. There, he becomes embroiled in a real-life murderous extrapolation of a board game called Quintet involving five competing players and a sixth “advisor.” Newman and the international cast (including Bibi Andersson and Fernando Rey) portray the last remnants of the human race; death is ever-present, but the exhausted characters carry wearily on, trying to avoid the packs of roving Rottweilers and murderous intrigue in the hopes of surviving for another day. Altman and his team created a special filter that claustrophobically blurs the edges of the frame, and his typically drifting camera and searching zooms find much to explore in the film’s sets—humanitarian posters, abstract sculptures, and assorted detritus in the abandoned structures of Montreal’s Expo 67 World’s Fair. Altman’s parents had recently passed away, and he described the film as being conceived in the shadow of their deaths; a meditation on life as a dangerous game, a constant cheating, a gamble that promises the thrill of the chase.
Bing Theater | $5 admission | Tickets: 323 857-6010 or purchase online.