- Movie Rating -

Quintet (1979); ★

| February 9, 1979

When Robert Altman’s films are good, they’re very, very good.  When they’re not, they’re Quintet.  What in the world made him want to get involved in such a dreary, lifeless and depressing exercise such as this?  Why did the director of such brilliant and energetic pictures such as MASH, McCabe and Mrs. Miller and Nashville suddenly get the idea that his next slice of life should be the dystopian future.

This drab and pointless story, which was not only directed but produced and co-written by Altman, takes place in the near-future, with bombed out cities experiencing a seemingly endless winter.  The focus is on Essex (Paul Newman) a seal hunter who arrives at his brother’s front door when he realizes that the seal population has dried up.  The brother’s family lives in one of the five remaining compounds.  But an assassin has killed Essex’s family, sending in on his own personal journey through the compound to find out who killed them and why.

Essex discovers that the murders were committed in the midst of a game called Quintet, a casino game whose losers are then executed.  The moral outrage over the game is spelled out in long and tiresome speechifying by the game’s master players St. Christopher (Vittorio Gassman) and Grigor (Fernando Rey), but damned if I could make head or tail of it.

No matter.  This is a movie that is impossible to care about, impossible to follow and impossible to comprehend when you know the rest of Altman’s work.  Why did he want to make this film?  What was his motivation?  What was his original vision?  This looks like someone else’s movie and that’s just not what we expect.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1979) View IMDB Filed in: Sci-Fi/Fantasty
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