McCabe & Mrs.Miller

Dir: Robert Altman

DoP: Vilmos Zsigmond

Year: 1971

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7 thoughts on “McCabe & Mrs.Miller

  1. A beautiful film from the complete opposite end of the spectrum to Zodiac. Altman specialises in playing very loose with the camera. The approach here seems to be to really go all out and try and recreate the really dark interiors in this fledgling settlement.

    The very first scene in the bar is extremely underlit, I had some other frames but they were almost unuable. I wonder how much of this was to set a tone and how much was to dare the audience to walk out… if you werent able to handle the first scene, the film was obviously not for you.

    There is some really interesting lighting in the brothel at night scenes, they look to be lit trough a red glass shade that makes the top of the room very red and the bottom “white”. My favourite shot is 16.Mrs.Miller at the window, I love the framin, the two blocks of colour with Mrs.Miller breaking it up!

  2. Pingback: In Which It's The Best Jewish Comedy Western Since Blazing Saddles … — Themia

  3. Just finished watching the film and I was amazed by the photography. I remembered it being on this site and came straight here. Thanks for the pictures as always.

  4. Just watched this on DVD and was so impressed that I immediately re-watched with the commentary track by Altman and one of the producers. Altman says at one point that he strived to get R ratings on his movies to stop them being seen by 14 year olds( who wouldn’t like them anyway) and to get the ‘right audience’ , one which would pay attention to the overlapping and sometimes near-inaudible dialogue. He also said the style of photography was to evoke something like a daguerreotype photo of the era in which the movie is set.
    I think it’s a truly brilliant film. The acting is naturalistic and the photography is spectacularly good. I loved the early scene in the saloon when amid the gloom an oil lamp (seen in image 4) suddenly illuminates the card player’s faces and a couple of seconds later it’s like a Dutch Old Master painting by Rubens or Vermeer. Beautifully lit and composed. The other shot that reminds me of a painting is just as the ‘Bearpaw whores’ are riding into town (two or three seconds before image 10) with the trees backlit by the winter sun – it’s like a Monet.
    The only gripe is that pesky fake snow falling towards the end. The movie was shot in sequence so as some scenes clearly have real snow falling I guess it was unavoidable for continuity purposes – it’ll never dam snow when you need it! As the camera moves a lot in these scenes, panning back and forth, it grates on the eye that the superimposed ‘snow’ often doesn’t move with it, but such were the technology limitations of the time I guess and the rest of movie more than compensates.
    That Zsigmond didn’t get even an AA nomination, simply because he wasn’t then a member of the cinematographers guild (according to Altman) truly sucks.

    • Actually almost all of the falling, and built up snow was real. Since the end scenes were all that needed to be shot when the snow started falling Altman decided to continue with filming. All the crew had to do was fill in spots where the snow had not stayed. Its in Robert T. Self, Altman’s McCabe and Mrs. Miller: Reframing the American West (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2007).

  5. Sorry but no, the falling snow on screen is clearly fake and superimposed. The snow on the ground is real. They had to superimpose the falling snow (just like the falling rain at the beginning of the film) for continuity purposes, because they had to shoot in a rush and couldn’t stop when it started raining or snowing. So part of the scenes have real rain and snow falling, and they added it in the others. And I totally agree that it is the only part of the film that sucks. It really took me out of the story several times.
    Saw an archival 35mm print of the film yesterday and it is still beautiful🙂

    • I’m watching this film now and wondered if that snow was superimposed. Looks so fake falling down. Thanks, thought for a sec I was seeing it wrong or something.

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