Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I like to ask people to recall the first movie they remember seeing at the theater, to tell the story of that initial experience because it’s always interesting to me.

My first memory of going to the cinema was to see Robert Altman’s Popeye. I was very young, with my mom and dad, and all I remember is that we were late to the drive-in, the movie had already started by the time we got to the long line of cars waiting on the street to get in, and I could see the movie on the giant screen but I couldn’t hear the sound. I’ll never forget pressing my face against the backseat window in total astonishment.

I bring this up because yesterday the mighty Robert Altman died.

Altman, the man who created the first film my eyes ever glimpsed. Altman, the man who both inspired me and irritated me simultaneously throughout film school. Altman, the man who was once asked to describe his next project and promptly responded, “If I could tell you what it’s about I wouldn’t need to make the picture.”

To me, he is extraordinarily important because he broke rules. He pushed the boundaries and invented new ways of expression. By creating the films he wanted to create in the ways he wanted to create them, he stood as an example to so many young filmmakers, writers, and artists alike: follow your obsessions, your personal delights, and your unique imagination.

God, if only more people in the world were devotees of Altman.

Goodbye, Sir. Your passion lives on with me.

[click here to view his filmography]