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Distributed for Reaktion Books

Robert Altman

In the American Grain

Known as an iconoclast and maverick, film director Robert Altman has consistently pushed against the boundaries of genre. From refashioning film noir in The Long Goodbye, the western in McCabe & Mrs. Miller, the psychological drama in Images, science fiction in Quintet, and the romantic comedy in A Perfect Couple, he has always tested the limits of what film can and should do. In this book, Frank Caso examines the development of Altman’s artistic method from his earliest days in industrial film to his work in television and feature films.
Altman is one of those directors whose films audiences can easily recognize, but what exactly are the distinctive elements that have become his signature? Caso identifies more than twenty such elements in Altman’s style, tracing some—such as his use of free-hand cameras and engagement with Christian imagery—to the beginning of his career. Caso also examines Altman’s unsettling mix of offbeat comedic tone with a predominance of violence, murder, and death, showing how their counterpointing effects rendered his films at once naturalistic and otherworldly.
Exploring these and other aspects of the Altmanesque style, Caso maps the innovations that have made Altman a master filmmaker. Enriched with illustration throughout, Robert Altman will appeal to fans of this distinctive American auteur or anyone interested in ground-breaking cinema. 

320 pages | 75 halftones | 6 x 8 | © 2015

Film Studies

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“If you want to get a complete understanding of Altman, his filmmaking style, and why his movies are so important to the history of cinema, Frank Caso’s book is a must read.”


“A detailed study of the films of a talented American director.”


Table of Contents


Part 1: Apprentice and Journeyman 
1 Kansas City 
2 Journeyman’s Blues 

Part 2: The Artist in Bloom 
3 M*A*S*H and its Immediate Successors 
4 The Neo-Noir Director 
5 Paradise Lost 
6 Strange Interlude 
7 Career Ebb 

Part 3: Exile 
8 The Play’s the Thing, Part One: Television Work 
9 The Play’s the Thing, Part Two: Features Again 

Part 4: The Prodigal’s Return 
10 Renaissance 
11 Crime, Punishment and Vaginas 
12 Death is the Only Real Ending 

Filmography and Television Work 

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