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Remembering Robert Altman At The Walter Reade Theater

Saturday/Sunday, November 25/26----Robert Altman, one of the most influential film directors of his generation, passed away earlier this week at Cedars of Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. Rumors about Altman's declining health have been circulating since his announcement at last year's Academy Awards that he had received a heart transplant in the last few years. What the public and even close associates didn't know was that the iconic director had been diagnosed with cancer over a year ago, but continued working, not letting on that he was afflicted.

The Film Society of Lincoln Center, which presents the New York Film Festival, New Directors New Films and year-round film programming, has put together a special evening on Monday to honor the legendary director, by screening what will now be his farewell film, A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION.

The film, which is based on the popular National Public Radio series created by Garrison Keillor, is a film that summed up the Altman technique and gesture. Featuring a large cast including Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Kevin Kline, Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, Lindsay Lohan, John C. Reilly and Virginia Madsen, the film showcased all its actors in an ensemble that used the director's signature overlapping dialogue and interlocking storylines.

A special screening of the PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION will be held on Monday, November 27 at 8:30pm at the Walter Reade Theater, the year-round cinematheque of the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Special guests will attend to salute the director, a fiercely independent spirit who made movies that lived, breathed and inspired a unique devotion in movie lovers all around the world.

In a career that spanned four decades, Robert Altman’s camera eye was a remarkably delicate and sensitive instrument, seeking out and illuminating the most fleeting beauties and mysteries of being human. In such seminal 1970s films as MASH, THREE WOMEN, NASHVILLE and McCABE AND MRS. MILLER, the maverick director introduced a fluid style that turned the traditional ways of blocking actors and staging dialogue on its ear.

His re-emergence in the 1990s with the Hollywood satire THE PLAYER and the Los Angeles zeitgeist multi-character drama SHORT CUTS re-established his reputation as one of cinema's most original voices. He attained his biggest career success late in his career with the finely modulated period drama GOSFORD PARK, which featured a who's who cast of English actors, including Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith, Clive Owen, Alan Bates, Derek Jacobi and Michael Gambon. The film was nominated for 7 Oscars, but the director, despite high praise, went away empty handed, as he did throughout his career.

At last year's Academy Awards, Altman was awarded an Honorary Oscar for Life Achievement, which was presented to him by his PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION co-stars Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin. The director, looking fit and announcing that he was working on several new projects, ruefully acknowledged his "elder statesmen" status in a Hollywood that never quite new what to make of his maverick talent.

The Walter Reade Theater screening of A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION will be introduced by Kent Jones, the Film Society's associate director of programming. In a statement released to the press, the Film Society stated that showing this final film in Altman's long and varied career "is the nicest way we can think of to say goodbye."

Tickets are available at the Walter Reade Theater box office and online at www.filmlinc.com.


Sandy Mandelberger
Film New York Editor

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The Ultimate Guide to the New York Film, Video and New Media Scene.

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