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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Short Cuts (1993)


Brilliant Psychosocial Drama in Disjointed Cinematic Journey

In society, people end up with careers and lives through situational opportunity and the coincidence of chance that struck them at a sudden moment. Short Cuts grasps this notion as a large number of characters, 22 to be precise, interact directly or indirectly through a wide variety of different opportunities and chances. The connection is that these character's ties are of variable closeness, as some know each other, some get to know each other, and some never get to know of the existence of one another, yet every action has an effect on everyone. It is this moment, which Robert Altman seizes, as Short Cuts becomes a tale of the little and epic episodes of life.

Robert Altman does a marvelous job in depicting the small daily deceits that are made in order to keep family life intact. The idea is based on Raymond Carver's work which Altman freely adapts onto the silver screen, and he does a marvelous job grabbing Carver's atmosphere. The atmosphere is of a detached society where no true values or customs exists, and only where a temporary fix can provide instant happiness. This is supported by an excellent cast consisting of talented actors such as Andie MacDowell, Jack Lemmon, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Anne Archer, Matthew Modine, Julianne Moore, Robert Downey Jr., and Tim Robbins among many others.

In the opening scene, a large number of helicopters take off into the sunset while families can hear about threats of the Medfly through a broadcaster. The hovering sound of helicopters roams over the Los Angles urban and suburban communities as the news continues of the helicopters that are set out to spray an insecticide over L. A. in order to combat the threatening Medfly. Fearfully, families close their windows and doors in concern of possible side effects of the insecticide. The cinematic introduction of Short Cuts brings the audience an anxious trepidation of an unforeseen looming future, and it displays how differently people deal with the worrisome situation.

In the middle of the Medfly tragedy there are ten different stories intermingled as they all affect one another in different ways. These stories contain love, deceit, suffering, denial, fear, envy, forgiveness, and death as the different characters explore new ways of dealing with life. The approach used to face the difficulties of life often contain some sort of short cut, such as alcohol, infidelity, lies, and denial to provide a quick fix. However, the short cuts taken by the people often end up being much more painful to involved parties as it does not involve taking the time to tell the truth or be frank with oneself or others.

The many tales of Short Cuts concern men such as an unfaithful police officer, three men on a fishing trip finding a dead body, a stalking baker, and a vengeful helicopter pilot. These men often to try to express an outward masculinity, but the maleness looks feeble as they find themselves forced into a situation where they have to be nurturing and caring. This inconsistency supports the notion that the men seek a short cut of being male by behaving in an overtly tough manner, but instead the men find themselves in a quandary as they find their wife or girlfriend upset.


The stories also have interesting quick fixes in regards to the women, who either drink themselves into oblivion or live in denial. For example, there is the story of a jazz singing alcoholic mother that drowns her own sorrows in alcohol instead of communicating with her depressed musically gifted daughter. There is also a housewife that runs a phone sex business while changing the diapers and feeding their infant, but when her husband wants to have some fun she is quick to remember something in order to ruin the moment. In addition, there is the waitress who has an alcoholic boyfriend who seems to have advanced on her daughter in a moment of drunkenness to which the mother blames the alcohol.


The different stories all have something in common, as all characters avoid the truth and try to find an instant fix around the corner. Nonetheless, the film is not about the stories, but about the people in the story and how these people deal with joy and misery from day to day while things they cannot control affect them. Altman provides this cinematically through jumping around to the different stories while telling each tale in a disconnected manner that enhances the detached atmosphere and brings human behavior to the focus. The behavior of the people seems to become a product of the environment and the way they have been nurtured, which gives the film some interesting psychosocial insights.

After a three hour long journey the audience will have experienced a first class venture into cinema as the tale offers several possible narrations of what happens. This is much due to Altman and his unique storytelling, which has been seen in both Nashville (1975) and The Player (1992). It is also a result of the brilliant performance of a magnificent cast guided into an every day rut, which many people go through. Short Cuts will ultimately offer the viewer a fulfilling cinematic experience, which presents much contemplation upon every day behavior. By Kim Anehall "www.cinematica.org"


Torrent : here (Updated april 22)
All subs: here

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