Of all the Criterion announcements this year, the arrival of Robert Altman's "Nashville" is the one that has excited me the most. I've owned the film on a clunky two cassette VHS format and on a rather unimpressive DVD presentation. One of the seminal films of the seventies, this is an important work that has demanded a more worthy distribution. When I saw that Criterion had picked up the title, I rushed over here to see what features would be included on the release. Alas, there was nothing yet listed. I thought that other "Nashville" enthusiasts might also be chomping at the bit in anticipation, so I thought I'd give a shout-out to the announced pre-release features. This is for informational purposes only, I have not previewed this edition. I can say with confidence, however, that any restoration can't help but be a noticeable improvement over the poor quality discs currently on the market.
The "Nashville" release will be in a Blu-ray/DVD Combo pack having one Blu-ray disc and 2 DVDs. It has been confirmed that all Bonus content will be available in both formats. The movie gets a new 2K digital restoration with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray.
Audio commentary featuring director Robert Altman
New documentary on the making of the film, featuring interviews with actors Keith Carradine, Michael Murphy, Allan Nicholls, and Lily Tomlin; assistant director Alan Rudolph; and screenwriter Joan Tewkesbury
Archival interviews with Altman
Demos of Carradine singing his songs from the film
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Molly Haskell
"Nashville" is, perhaps, one of the experiences in my life that made me really evaluate the art of filmmaking. That's why I am so extremely passionate and supportive of it. For me, it was right up there with "The Godfather, Parts 1 and 2" as the benchmark for artistic vision in the seventies. In trademark Altman style, he collected 24 disparate characters and set them loose in the country music capital. As actors collided with real personalities, it was a kaleidoscope of semi-improvisational brilliance. Touching on the nature of celebrity, political apathy, and social unrest, Altman's unparalleled cast wove together an unforgettable tapestry that truly represents a specificity of time and place. I remember the impact the movie had on me on my first viewing. It redefined everything I knew about narrative structure and storytelling. I'd never seen anything like it, and it's still Altman's masterpiece. He has utilized a similar style many times since, but the way he brings together the storylines for the stunning finale of "Nashville" still resonates powerfully. I watch it every couple of years.
The movie was nominated for multiple Oscars (including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress Lily Tomlin, and Best Supporting Actress Ronee Blakely) and won for Keith Carradine's Original Song "I'm Easy." Altman encouraged the actors to develop their own musical material and songs, and it sure paid off for Carradine. The movie's cast is a who's who of the time, many members of Altman's regular stable. In addition to those already mentioned, the movie features many others including Barbara Harris, Karen Black, Scott Glenn, Ned Beatty, Geraldine Chaplin, Shelly Duvall, Henry Gibson, Allen Garfield, Jeff Goldblum, and Michael Murrphy. The movie is smart, funny, and even tragic by turns and there are tons of musical performances. It may not be for everyone, but it's an undeniable American classic that is just as challenging and vital today as it was in 1975. Thanks Criterion! KGHarris, 9/13.