3 WOMEN (Robert Altman, 1977)

“3 Women” is Robert Altman’s most unconventional of films. In fact, the film doesn’t really have a genre. One could say it’s a drama, but the film is to comical to really be seen as dramatic. The film could be called a comedy, but it has so many points of horror to keep that brand. You can also claim it as a horror film, but the terror is nowhere near as consistent to actually be seen as a horror film. It is all three of those genres, yes. But it is not solely one or the other, and had I categorized DVDs at a video store, I would make it have its very own shelf.

“3 Women” follows a woman named Millie (Shelley Duvall). She’s a woman striving to always look perfect, and she believes herself to be well-loved by all, even though in actuality, most seem to be aggravated by her, and almost always ignore her. She works at a nursing home, helping the elders as they make their way in and out of an indoor swimming pool. It’s not long, that Pinky (Sissy Spacek) shows up. Pinky is a young woman, who looks and acts as if she is eleven years old. She is in need of some teaching of how to work at the home, and Millie tries to help her learn. Eventually, Pinky ends up moving into Millie’s apartment. Millie was looking for a roommate, and Pinky, she feels, is a perfect one. However, as time goes on, the friendship between Millie and Pinky begins to shift. And then, both of their lives, not to mention, the film exactly, begins to enter in a strange and terrifying tone.

It is very hard to describe a film like “3 Women”, because there is so much going on in every frame. It’s amazing that this is the case, since, when you think about the story – you realize there isn’t much of one. It’s strange, but it’s compelling, and the way that it does so many fascinating things is somewhat of a cinematic miracle. Not one bit of the film really makes much of sense on the first viewings, and for some, they will never figure it out. In fact, writer/director Robert Altman even stated himself; he had no idea what the reasoning behind many of the film’s moments actually mean. The film plays like a dream. It’s so dreamlike as it passes on so many dreamy imagery and situations, before that “shift” comes halfway in, and the film becomes a virtual nightmare.

The film is called “3 Women”, so you may be wondering, why am I only talking about ‘two’ woman? Well, I’ll answer that there is a third woman, and her name is Willie (Janice Rule). She is silent, barely says anything in the entire film, and only drifts in the background and in the scenes in which Millie and Pinky have their most emotional peaks of either guilt, anger, or violence. Willie may seem unimportant when, in actuality, she is the most significant.

“3 Women” is almost impossible to review, or talk about, because the film is just so complex and dreamy. It’s unforgettable, for sure, and it stirs one’s thoughts. But it is still on the verge of impossible to carry on a conversation about the film. “3 Women” is a masterpiece, and it is worth seeking out. Even if you may not understand a bit of it.

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~ by jerkwoddjh on May 11, 2009.

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