3 Women (1977) [The Criterion Collection #230] [ReUp]

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3 Women (1977) [The Criterion Collection #230] [ReUp]

3 Women (1977)
DVD9 | ISO+MDS | NTSC 16:9 | Cover | 7,32 Gb
Audio: English AC3 1.0 @ 192 Kbps | Subs: English SDH
Genre: Drama | The Criterion Collection #230

Director: Robert Altman
Stars: Shelley Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Janice Rule

In a dusty, underpopulated California resort town, a naive southern waif, Pinky Rose (Sissy Spacek), idolizes and befriends her fellow nurse, the would-be sophisticate and “thoroughly modern” Millie Lammoreaux (Shelley Duvall). When Millie takes Pinky in as her roommate, Pinky’s hero worship evolves into something far stranger and more sinister than either could have anticipated. Featuring brilliant performances from Spacek and Duvall, this dreamlike masterpiece from Robert Altman careens from the humorous to the chilling to the surreal, resulting in one of the most unusual and compelling films of the 1970s.


After he hit what many consider to be his career peak in the mid-1970s with the masterful ensemble drama Nashville (1975), Robert Altman entered a strange period of experimentation that would largely define his career in the late 1970s and unfortunately lead into his decline in the early 1980s. In the grander scheme of things, it is ironic that Altman was at his most experimental just as Hollywood was fully embracing the blockbuster formula spawned by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. Altman was amazingly prolific during the 1970s, turning out a dozen feature films in a span of 10 years, and one wonders if the major studios continued funding his increasingly abstract and experimental films only because they were hoping for another unexpected hit ala M*A*S*H (1970), his subversive war comedy that was an unexpected box office success during one of Hollywood's most economically desperate eras.

3 Women (1977) [The Criterion Collection #230] [ReUp]

Altman's brief experimental phase, which culminated with 1979's glacial, abstract sci-fi head-scratcher Quintet, kicked off in 1977 with 3 Women, an absorbing, if despondent, tale of familial disintegration and the twisted world of relationship power dynamics. It relies less on the construct of a linear, causal narrative than it does on the power of recognizable human emotions embedded within the logic of symbols and metaphors. You can spend all day trying to fit the pieces of the story together to figure out 'what happens' and 'why' it happens and still be no closer to the film's true meaning. 3 Women is often described as dreamlike because of its slightly hazy, sometimes surreal imagery, but that description is better suited to the logic of its story, in which personalities shift and clash without 'rational' explanation.

3 Women (1977) [The Criterion Collection #230] [ReUp]

Like the female characters in Ingmar Bergman's Cries and Whispers (1972), the three women of the title are best viewed as three faces of a single person. In various ways, they are all connected, sometimes reflecting each other and other times refracting and fragmenting those connections (notice how many times they are seen in panes of double glass, thus creating multiple reflections). They not so much individual, psychologically defined characters as they are allegories for various faces of the human condition.

3 Women (1977) [The Criterion Collection #230] [ReUp]

The film's central relationship is between Millie Lammoreaux (Shelley Duvall) and Pinky Rose (Sissy Spacek). Millie, who fancies herself a social sophisticate, works at a day spa for the elderly in a remote, dusty southern California town. The almost childlike Pinky is the new girl at work, and she immediately latches onto Millie, blindly creating a dependent power dynamic between them. Millie accepts the socially awkward Pinky into her life and eventually into her one-bedroom apartment as her roommate.

3 Women (1977) [The Criterion Collection #230] [ReUp]

Although they seem polar opposites 'Millie is chipper and self-assured while Pinky is quiet and shy' they are, in fact, very much the same, particularly in their isolation from others. Millie chatters on to anyone and everyone, but it is quickly evident that no one wants to listen to her banal ruminations on life. Always dressed in sunny shades of yellow (as is her apartment and her boxy little car), Millie is so absorbed in the worldly discourse of her fashion magazines that she is almost frighteningly unaware of just how alone she is. The stark difference between the world in which she lives and her perception of it is humorously summarized in her statement 'I'm known for my dinner parties,' which consist entirely of cheap, processed foods like pigs in a blanket, pudding cups, and cheese whiz. Pinky accepts everything Millie says and does without question, thus illustrating how desperate she is for companionship.

3 Women (1977) [The Criterion Collection #230] [ReUp]

The third woman of the title is Willie Hart (Janice Rule), who exists largely on the margins of the film. She is married to Edgar Hart (Robert Fortier), a sorry sack of would-be machismo who owns a dilapidated bar in a run-down former amusement park called 'Dodge City' (a literal incarnation of the death of the promise of the West and all the Manifest Destiny baggage that came along with it). Willie, who is pregnant and silent for most of the film, spends her time painting large murals that depict three angry reptilian women. These murals become one the film's primary structuring devices, with Altman cutting to them as transitions between scenes or as punctuation to major events.

3 Women (1977) [The Criterion Collection #230] [ReUp]

The first half of the film is quite straightforward, dramatically and narratively. Altman's insistent focus on the dry desert landscape and the depressing isolation of everything and everyone gives the film's opening passages a fuzzy bleakness, but it is easy enough to get wrapped up in the sad relationship between Millie and Pinky, which seems destined for disaster. The film makes an abrupt shift when Pinky has an 'accident' and ends up in a coma. At this point, identity becomes fully fluid as Pinky emerges from her coma a completely different person, which results in a rapid shift in the power dynamics of her relationship with Millie. This, of course, entails Millie's personality undergoing a radical shift, as well. Altman underscores the connections with a series of murky, fluid montages that recall Bergman's juxtaposing of female faces in Persona (1966).

3 Women (1977) [The Criterion Collection #230] [ReUp]

3 Women is the kind of film that carries a great deal of profundity for those willing to look for it. Particularly for those viewers who know Altman's films and the themes that define them, it is a beautifully perplexing, but ultimately recognizable work. Altman's despondent view of familial relations is at its most powerful here, even though it is conveyed in abstract, rather than direct terms. It is also a crucial exploration of gender dynamics, as it undermines the idea that female power will somehow improve the world. Instead, Altman suggests in the film's haunting final shots that patriarchal abuses of power will forever be replicated even in the absence of men. For him, these abuses are inherent to humanity and have no particular gender bias. In 3 Women, violence of varying sorts is enacted by men against women, women against women, and women against men. It is the universal trait that connects all of humanity in a zero-sum game.
3 Women (1977) [The Criterion Collection #230] [ReUp]

Special Features:
- High-definition digital restoration
- Audio commentary featuring director Robert Altman
- Galleries of rare production and publicity stills
- Original theatrical trailers and television spots
- PLUS: booklet with essay by critic David Sterritt

All Credits goes to Original uploader.

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