[2 August 2011]
PopMatters Features Editor
Robert Altman’s strict Catholic upbringing and military service (he flew bombing missions in Asia during World War II) would have powerful and lasting influences over his life, and his art. Following the war, Altman dabbled in film, working on industrial documentaries and other such projects before stumbling into a feature film teensploitation picture in the mid-1950s. Eventually catching the attention of no less an authority than Alfred Hitchcock, Altman did some work on the old master’s television program in the early 1960s before heading back to Hollywood for a string of mostly forgettable pictures. It wasn’t until the tail end of the 1960s that Altman discovered his gift for subversion, and his unmistakable knack for capturing effortless, naturalistic dialogue.
Often referred to as a filmmaker’s filmmaker, Altman has frequently puzzled audiences and annoyed critics. But, his singular style and persistent attention to the paranoid American conscience marks him as among the most important voices of both his best periods in the 1970s and the 1990s.