Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. USA, 1971. David Foster Productions, Warner Bros.. Screenplay by Robert Altman, Brian McKay, based on the novel McCabe by Edmund Naughton. Cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond. Produced by Mitchell Brower, David Foster. Production Design by Leon Ericksen. Film Editing by Lou Lombardo. Academy Awards 1971.
Warren Beatty shows up in a nineteenth-century Western town that is literally a hole in the ground, with one saw mill and a few labourers. He brings with him three prostitutes and three tents, and watches as his business prospects grow into a fully-fledged whorehouse and the hole in the ground grows into a profitable city that attracts corporate greed. Enter Julie Christie as a world-wise madam from England who arrives to take charge of Beatty’s house as well as his heart. Their conflict of personalities is the center of the action, while the conflict between Beatty and the big business that wants to take away his town provides the rest of the entertainment. Robert Altman has long been famous for taking popular genres and turning them on their ear, and one of the best examples is the fine mincing of the traditional western that doesn’t concern itself with good guys and bad guys but instead focuses on character interaction and reaction. Beatty is great, and Christie is, as usual, an absolute revelation.