Sometime before the production of 3 Women, Robert Altman had a dream. That night, genius was spawned in that man’s dream. The concept and story of 3 Women was created at that particular moment. The next morning he awoke, with a surprisingly vivid memory of the previous night’s dream. It felt too real and atmospheric to be just a dream. Altman decided to scrap the memory as he had to dash to the airport. As he was on his way driving to the airport he was still contemplating the eerie existence of his dream. He was not alone in his car when he was trying to get to the airport. He suddenly stopped his car at a film studio and pitched 3 Women. Five to ten minutes surpassed before Altman exited the studio’s premises with a next film in mind. Yes, he had unexpectedly entered the studio, pitched his film, was given the green light and left all in five to ten minutes. That’s how you pitch a film! Oh, and guess what? He caught his plane.
The next step in the pre-production of 3 Women was casting. I doubt much thought was given to who would play the character of Millie Lammoreaux. Shelley Duvall had participated in several of Altman’s previous films and would star in another of his later films (the ill-fated, live-action, big screen adaptation, Popeye.) Shelley Duvall was given the part immediately as it was thought up for her. Altman had not only imagined the film in his dreams, he imagined the casting. The other main character, Pinky Rose was played be Sissy Spacek. This was a daring decision on behalf of Robert Altman, but Altman was all about daring. At this point in her career, Spacek had only demonstrated her talent in Brian de Palma’s Carrie (a role she was directed to go over-the-top with). Carrie is the opposite of Pinky Rose. Pinky was written and envisioned with careful control, the opposite of Carrie. But Altman did as his dream appeared, and it worked for him.
3 Women appeared in the Cannes Film Festival, where Shelley Duvall won the best actress award. It is currently under the status of one of Altman’s greatest films. It currently has a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 7.7 on IMDb. The most popular and the greatest manner in which one could experience 3 Women would be through The Criterion Collection, the near perfect restoration of a near perfect film.
Millie Lammoraeux works as a therapist for the elderly in an elderly care centre. She is socially isolated as her co-workers belittle her. However, Millie acts as though she is oblivious to this fact as she continues to inform people about her gourmet recipes. Then one day Pinky Rose arrives in the centre. She is young and has just been given a job in the centre. She seems to discover an immediate attachment between herself and Millie. After Millie's roommate moves out, Pinky moves in with her. As time goes by we notice Pinky seems to be slowly morphing with her personality into Millie's persona. After an argument, Pinky jumps off of her diving board into a pool.
When she wakes up in the hospital, she is an entirely different person. What's worse is, so is Millie. It is almost as though they have switched personalities... but even more sinister events await the women...
Robert Altman takes on a very visual experience with 3 Women. He uses so many cinematic aspects to out elicit his meaning. To start off, I should inform you that the idea of 3 Women is dreams. Everything comes back to dreams. To start off with, the colour schemes are perfectly selected to revolve around dreams. When I say the one word... dreams what colours do you see? I personally have always imagined white and blue as the colours of dreams, and I believe that Robert Altman had the same opinion. Everything is made out of those two colours. Water is another aspect of 3 Women. The film begins on the camera, and we spend a lot on the observing the water. What does the water symbolize? I have come to believe that it represents dreams. Water is made up of blues and white and it gently flows, relaxing us... like dreams. As well, when you look into the water, you see your refection. What are dreams, if not also reflections on yourself? Just another reason why 3 Women is a dream is because of the camera movement. Dreams are a time to recharge your energy, you are relaxed. The camera in 3 Women slowly floats around... relaxed... observing.
Everything about 3 Women helps us build the creepy and eerie atmosphere and style. To start us off, the repetitive piece of music that we hear over and over again, is sharp... and yet soothing. It frightens us... but on such a dark level. 3 Women gets off on atmosphere. There is something in the air of 3 Women, every scene is filled with the creepiest stylistic decisions imaginable. 3 Women has many scenes of where we see creepy paintings. The paintings are demonic resembling creature... at the end of the film it suddenly struck me, they're supposed to be three women.
3 Women takes off as a character drama, and ends on so much more. The actresses in the lead roles are just fabulous. They both show their versatility as they swap personas and demonstrate that there a more than one persona they can act as. Millie, played excellently by Shelley Duvall, nails it as she makes as cringe at her character's awkwardness. Although Sissy Spacek is not quite as good as Duvall, she is almost equally brilliant.
The beginning of 3 Women is very slow. The point of this is to make the second half appear to be very unexpected. Surprise is what made 3 Women such a disturbing and unique experience for me the first time.
It is time to examine 3 Women in an sharp eye. As I mentioned earlier, this film was based off of Altman's dream. Everyone's dreams as themselves as a character. Then who is Robert Altman in 3 Women? The only man in the film with a big role is Edgar, the third woman's husband. Or could Altman ever been a woman? I don't know, because I have never had a dream in which I was a woman, or anyone other than myself for that matter. There are moments in 3 Women where Edgar does get a little... physical with every single character. That said, in real life, was Altman involved with multiple women at the time?
Directed by Robert Altman,
Starring: Shelley Duvall, Sissy Spacek and Janice Rule
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3. Brewster McCloud
4. Gosford Park
5. Fool For Love