Daily Archives: 02/04/2006

McCabe & Mrs. Miller

The idea of Western world as cold and frozen as captured in McCabe & Mrs. Miller may recall the lonely and almost-empty atmosphere of a kingdom in England in The Lion in Winter, since both films brought out contrast looks of their respective background as commonly perceived, yet the strong elements of both genres still convincingly present in the films, either to enhance the genre or to serve as a supporting backdrop.

The former film as discussed here decided to bask itself under the heavy thick of snow, somehow confining the brass loud of Western as usually appeared on the screen, particularly the Western films made in this era, mid-1960s to early-1970s, when Sergio Leone did not hesitate to downgrade the genre with uncomforting violence, at the same time when John Wayne was still around to maintain the dignity of the genre through traditional values of good deeds over evil doings, in a very two-dimensional way at the very best.
The confinement itself then is redeemed by the presence of the two leading characters with their unique traits considered as a breakthrough then. Warren Beatty’s McCabe is an opportunist who often confuses himself with his indecisiveness. He deliberately suppresses himself from his past that made him what he is, yet eventually he surrenders to the past, his own reputation, to a very unfortunate result at the end. It is understandable then that he carries his gloominess throughout the entire film, making each scenes he appeared seemed to be palpable to swallow.

McCabe & Mrs. Miller

However, the same cannot be said towards Julie Christie, the saving grace of the film. Thanks to her radiant presence shining through her feisty acts, Christie turns her Mrs. Miller as a multi-dimensional character with a mere single look as represented by her generous eyes that speak many things themselves. It is hardly any wonder then that Robert Altman chose to end this film with the camera zooming in Christie’s bewildering eyes, something we seldom see in recent times until another film, Facing Window, does it with the same satisfying effect.

And isn’t that a rarity to see a Western film is almost entirely carried out by a mere presence of the leading lady character? Another breakthrough indeed, from Altman at his playful time in accordance to his famous M.A.S.H..

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Posted by on 02/04/2006 in English, Film



“I’ll tell you the greatest regret of my life. I let my love go”.

Then my only regret would be of not watching one of the most powerful dramatic ensemble films ever produced and released amidst the chaotic of mindless and plotless films these days.

What glued one to the seat throughout the entire 195-minute duration lies on the parallel lines of many souls living their lives right in front of us, no matter if you see it on a big screen or small ones, which actually serve as a mirror to what we really are. From the first 10 minutes of puzzling images spanning through decades of human (in)decencies as visualized through quick-cut editings, we seem to be asked to trace our roots that lead us to what we are today.

Thus, in one rainy day of Los Angeles where many intricated stories of life begins, Magnolia starts depicting and exploiting ourselves through the impossible list of characters as portrayed by impossibly talented actors at their best.

At once, we are asked to redeem our sins in the past by suffering from painful pains, both literally and mentally.
Other times, we wish to break ourselves free from any haunting commitment as told to us regularly on daily basis.
Occasionally, we do not realize how little lies as we started imagining from our youth has become a life on its own, trapping us inside that only wounding us everytime we make an attempt to get out of it.
Worse, sometimes we realize that it is only too late to show our deepest affection to our beloved ones.


As the characters start unravelling their masks and allowing us to touch their wounds, the film works as a paradigm that strikes hard to our mind without even being preachy. Those opposing the film may question the necessity of cursive languages, but this opposing team may not realize the aching reality the film grounds itself, that behind the seemingly ruthless acts, it is the hearts yearning for acknowledgement of existence that speaks at their loudest.

Through Tom Cruise’s perfectly-fit annoying charisma, through Julianne Moore’s heart-rending acute portrayal of a tormented spouse, through Melora Walter’s emotional grievances, through our sympathetic nods to William H. Macy’s abused character, we finally realize that these people are pieces of what made the film compelling to watch, all while we are kept reminded that:

“We might be through with the past, but the past ain’t through with us”

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Posted by on 02/04/2006 in English, Film