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California Split [Import]

George Segal , Elliott Gould , Robert Altman    R (Restricted)   DVD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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A forgotten Altman gem

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A forgotten Altman gem April 21 2011
By K. Gordon TOP 50 REVIEWER
Terribly overlooked, and now long out of print, this is a special film, well worth seeing. Yes the DVD had a couple of trims forced on it over music rights, but it was still a way to at least get to see a minor classic. It's a tremendously sad comedy about two very different compulsive gamblers, who form a compulsive friendship almost homo-erotic in quality and intensity. Some of the very best work of both Gould and Segal's careers. Not a lot happens, but I was left very moved and a bit shaken by the ending, even if there are a couple of overly cute, or self-referential moments along the way. One of the more interesting examinations of the U.S. concept of winning and losing I've ever seen.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  35 reviews
41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite film finally shows up on DVD Aug. 27 2004
By Clare Quilty - Published on Amazon.com
OK, so it's coming out as what appears to be a bare-bones disk instead of a juiced-up Criterion collection title (doubly sad since other Altman classics like "Secret Honor," "Tanner 88" and "Short Cuts" are getting the CC treatment the same month) but that doesn't matter.

What does matter is that I'm finally going to get to see my favorite film in widescreen.

I taped "Split" off cable years and years ago. I remember setting up the recording at some ungodly hour (3:25 a.m. or something) because I didn't want to miss it and I ended up watching the movie in its entirity.

Elliott Gould gives an amazing, lived-in performance as a lucky card player who takes a liking to a less fortunate gambler and, through a series of episodes, we watch them pass a few weeks hitting the track, going to boxing matches, playing poker, drinking, getting beat up and using a neat home remedy on their bruises over Fruit Loops. Their friendship is one of the best I've seen on-screen. Screenwriter Joseph Walsh appears briefly as Sparkie the shylock and it's a perfect cameo, a pre-"Sopranos" portrait of a crook haggard by the life ("Didn't I tell you that I've got busts happening all over the city, that my parents are in town, and you come in here and you don't have dollar one?")

This is a woefully underseen Altman classic, mostly because it's not available on tape or DVD, it's pretty rare. But it's a great movie -- I even have the one-sheet for "Split" hanging over my computer -- and I'm very, very pleased that I'll finally be able to see something *besides* the opening and closing credits in letterbox (it always seemed to underline the cruelty of pan-and-scan when, after the credit "Directed by Robert Altman" my beloved black bars disappeared).
28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Character & Behaviour Over Plot & Story Dec 7 2004
By Cubist - Published on Amazon.com
In the 1970s, Elliott Gould and Robert Altman were an unbeatable team. They first worked together on M*A*S*H, a savage satire of the military, then again on a radical, contemporary reworking of Raymond Chandler's novel, The Long Goodbye, and finally completed the hat trick with California Split, an ode to obsessive gamblers. For years, this film has been relegated to obscurity, showing up occasionally on TV and tied up in legal issues over the music which delayed its release on DVD. Finally, all of these entanglements have been resolved and the movie is presented the way it was meant to be seen.

California Split is one of Altman's trademark character-driven films. It is less concerned with plot than behaviour as we watch the friendship between Bill and Charlie develop over a mutual love of gambling. As the film progresses and the two men hang out more, Bill starts to become more addicted to the gambling lifestyle. He blows off work early to meet Charlie at the track and sells his possessions for money. Bill and Charlie are gambling addicts who ride the high arcs and the low valleys, never passing up a bet. At a boxing match they put money on the outcome of the fight with a fellow spectator.

Those who know Elliott Gould and George Segal only from their contemporary sitcom appearances (Friends and Just Shoot Me, respectively), should see California Split if only to see these guys in their prime and working with a master filmmaker at the top of his game. Gould and Segal have never been better and play well of each other. There is good chemistry between them as Gould plays the more experienced gambler in contrast to Segal's more naïve one.

Altman fans will enjoy the audio commentary included on this DVD. It features the director, the film's screenwriter Joseph Walsh, Gould and Segal. They point out that all the extras in the opening sequence were ex-drug addicts. Altman and Walsh talk in detail about the filmmaking process with the latter pointing out the authenticity of the gambling lifestyle as depicted in the movie. Everyone recounts amusing anecdotes on this relaxed, informative track.

California Split is not afraid to show the ugly side of gambling. Bill sells his car and his possessions for a big poker game in Reno. Charlie exacts a rough, bloody revenge on the guy who mugged him at the beginning of the movie. These are not always likeable guys and to Altman's credit he doesn't try to romanticize or judge them, leaving that up to the audience. California Split is arguably Altman's loosest film in terms of plot and one of the richest in terms of character and observing their behaviour.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Egyptian Femme! Egyptian Femme! Nov. 21 2004
By canuhearmenow? - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
OK...if you had told me ten years ago this film would be on DVD i would've been shocked...first I would've said 'what's a dvd'? then i would have said 'i can't believe anyone remembers this film besides myself' (i've been trumpeting it for years...if that's a word) It might not look like it, but this film is a true masterpiece, one of Mr. Altmans best films (up there with Nashville, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, etc...) The story is a little ramshackle...but that's part of the charm. You follow two gamblers as they roam around California looking for action, they win...sometimes...and lose...more...get beat up a couple times...and eventually travel to Reno for the grand finale. The acting is perfect, Elliot Gould has never been better and George Segal gives a great haggard performance. The sound is Altman at his most layered. The whole film is rich in detail and heavy on atmosphere and most viewers will need to watch a couple times to really enjoy. If you think 'Rounders' is a great poker film...see this one. And for once he commentary on this DVD is great (too often commentary is boring 'oh yeah, that actor was wonderful, that actress was amazing, etc.. without explaining how the film got made, etc) They don't make 'em like this anymore.

Also: when will Altmans "A Wedding" come out on DVD, a true lost classic (similar to Gosford Park and Nashville in style). It's been out of print for years and needs to be seen!
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Refreshingly Mature Guy Film Jan. 25 2010
By Acid - Published on Amazon.com
The main thing that struck me while watching this film is how (like many 70s films) it would never be made today. Today it would be re-written with vulgar potty jokes and immature geek humor a la "The Hangover", "bromance" (god, I hate that word)-style homo-erotic humor and chick-flick melodrama, and would be chock full of hip music montages, unrealistically sexy women, and would have a flase happy ending. It reminded me of how seldom REAL men are portrayed on the screen. They're usually reduced to testosterone-packed meat puppets, frat-boy washouts, or geeky Peter Pans. Today the characters would be 5-10 years younger, much more attractive, and thoroughly unbelievable.

Instead, we get Robert Altman long before he and his fans became pretentious, Elliot Gould and George Segal (two GREAT 70s actors) at the top of their game, a story that NEVER condescends, and some wonderful widescreen cinematography.

It's not a classic, but it's not trying to be. It's just a funny, smart, touching portrait of a couple of down on their luck, but not quite broken, gamblers. Gets an extra star for having balls. SO refreshing.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Minor Gem From Altman Jan. 24 2005
By Stephen B. Selbst - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
California Split is Robert Altman's take on the classic buddy movie. It tells the story of two hard-core gamblers, Bill Denny, played by George Segal, and Charlie Waters, played by Elliott Gould, who, after a chance meeting, take off on a long and unexpectedly successful spree binge that takes them from their native Los Angeles to a high-stakes poker game in Reno.

I love this picture, even though, as I explain below, Altman is something of an acquired taste. The first point is that because Altman cares about actors, he gets great performances from them. California Split is worth watching simply to see the extraordinary by-play between George Segal and Elliot Gould. They obviously liked working with each other, and they portray realistically idiotic and lovable louts, incapable of maintaining serious lives, relationships or jobs because the gambling gets in the way. Maybe the best-known scene in the movie is one in which these two addled and somewhat drunken dopes try to recall the names of Disney's seven dwarves. It's a very short scene, but it is poignant and funny at the same time, which is the tone of the best part of this picture.

The other remarkable thing is how brilliantly Altman captured the world of small-time gamblers. This movie was made in 1974, long before the World Series of Poker became a staple of ESPN, when hard-core gambling was restricted to tiny corners of the nation. The verisimilitude of the casino and bar scenes is so terrific its as if he used no actors at all, just went into the casinos and started shooting. Altman got it all, the smoke, the crazy characters, the sleaze, and oh yes, the insane excitement of winning.

The rap on Altman is that he couldn't tell a story, and there's some merit to the charge. In truth, Altman, who grew up in the television business, was completely capable of telling a story, it just wasn't his primary interest. Altman is more interested in his characters, and how they interact with each other, than with producing classic Hollywood story-arc movies. To some extent, all of his movies contained an at-best loosely connected series of vignettes, rather than traditional tight plotting. In his most commercially successful movies, like Nashville and M*A*S*H, there was just enough story line to carry audiences; in other movies, and California Split falls into this category, the story line is either so weak or so implausible that audiences didn't like the movies he made, because they seemed shapeless. But the point is, you don't watch his movies for the plot lines; there's always Bruckheimer and Simpson for that. You watch Altman movies because he gets these fabulous performances out of actors, and because he takes you places other people can't or won't. If you like movies, you won't regret watching California Split.
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