Altman paved way for new generation of cinema

Thomas Bowman
Staff Writer

One of America’s favorite pastimes since the early 20th century is indulging in cinema. 

Whether it’s watching the best shows on Netflix or swinging to the nearest theater to catch the latest flick, people are offered many opportunities in visual media. Since movies have been around since the beginning of the 1900s, filmmakers have gradually been forming more intricate filming styles and techniques throughout the past decades. I was recently made aware of a porous framing style connected to the films of Robert Altman.

A film class introduced me to Altman’s unique technique in the 1975 satirical film “Nashville”. While researching the movie I was intrigued by an interesting film style that was out of the ordinary, especially for the 70s. His camera style manipulates and deconstructs the way a scene and image is presented to an audience. His use of the porous frame was a staple to cinema in the 70s. Altman’s availability of new audiovisual technology helped create a distinct signature during the decade.

The directors work is what would be accurately established as master or displaying shots in professional cinema can often become medium shots or close‐ups. The viewer is faced by an image where the proximity of the main objects in relation to the camera can’t be estimated. Altman’s movies, in the end is a rather backwards combination. It manages to feel open and free but is somehow unrelated of traditional director signature markers of style. 

The porous technique gives Altman the freedom and space to include delicately placed artistic details in his movies. He encouraged his actors to use improvised lines to give an incredible amount of realism to the mass of the camera image. 

“Good disintegration!” Altman would tell his cast whenever they come up with a witty improved line.

Even if you have not seen an Altman film, it is very likely that you are aware of the people who have been influenced by his works. Some of these celebrities include Paul Thomas Anderson (director of” Boogie Nights”) and Judd Apatow (the creator of “Freaks and Geeks”). Altman impacts people with his angle of capturing heavy topics regarding politics and various other social issues. Although he’s not as well-known as George Lucas or Stephen Spielberg, Altman is a name commonly traded between conversations among professionals. 

“To play it safe is not to play” is a phrase coined by Altman at the height of his career. He fits the description of his own thought upon words.

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