Robert Altman was a regular at Cannes, starting with his Palme d’Or-winning MASH in 1970. The award was soon followed with nominations for other works, including Thieves Like Us and 3 Women, and then recognition as Best Director in 1992 with The Player. Five and a half years after his passing in 2006, the director returns to the festival again, this time as the subject of the authorized bio-doc Altman.
Now in pre-production, the film is being presented to buyers at the Cannes Market by producers David Koh and Josh & Dan Braun of Submarine Entertainment, along with co-financier Stanley Buchthal, he of Dakota Group. Canadian documentary filmmaker Ron Mann (Comic Book Confidential, Grass, Go Further) will direct Altman, which is in the process of being produced by Mann’s Toronto-based Sphinx as an Epix Original Documentary, in association with Astral’s pay TV service Movie Network (TMN). It’s also being co-produced by Altman’s widow, Kathryn Reed. [Variety]
In terms of content, the Globe and Mail tell us the film will cover everything, from his childhood in Kansas City, MO to receiving a Lifetime Achievement Oscar just months before his death — the only time a naked gold man was handed over to the director. Besides his illustrious film and TV work, the expansive documentary should also include lesser-known aspects of his life, such as his time fighting in World War II (he flew bombing missions in the Pacific), as well as his start in industrial films.
Shopping the project at Cannes signifies a connection between the director’s life and the impact the festival had on his prolific career. Said Mann:
“It’s here at Cannes where his career really took off. He was a regular, so of course we are looking at the stock footage from the festival’s archives.”
I’m a big fan of Altman, and have watched the gamut of his film catalog from the excellent (Nashville, Short Cuts) to the giant missteps (O.C. and Stiggs, Prairie Home Companion). Even when I balk at some of his directing choices – Popeye being the biggest blemish – I respect him for being an artist more concerned with taking risks than achieving commercial success. I think an objective take on his life would be very enlightening, if only to show the thought process behind choosing some of his stranger projects.
Completion on Altman is slated for mid-2013. It was also announced that a touring exhibit, illustrated companion book, and music soundtrack will accompany the film.
Are you an Altman fan, and if so, does a documentary surrounding his life and career bear any interest?
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