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3 Women : BFI Film Classics - Justin Wyatt

3 Women

By: Justin Wyatt

Paperback | 14 November 2024

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Released after the large-scale frescos of Nashville (1975) and Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson (1976), 3 Women (1977) was seen as an intimate drama from director Robert Altman.

Justin Wyatt's study of 3 Women explores the film's genre defying characteristics. He argues that the film goes beyond its initial interpretation as an example of art cinema owing to its surrealist, dreamlike quality. Wyatt considers four distinct aspects of the film; the function of space and Altman's ability to guide the action through the careful unfolding of the mise-en-scene; its critique of social and sexual manners; the construction of Shelley Duvall's impressive performance; and the ways through which the film can be interpreted generically as alternately a psychological drama, a puzzle film, a dark comedy, and a horror film.

Using archival materials from the Robert Altman Archive at the University of Michigan Special Collections, Wyatt explains how this broader reading of 3 Women uncovers a most valuable film text with particular interest to those interested in performance, unique cinematic storytelling methods, and an exacting social satire of American life in the late 1970s. He situates the film within Altman's oeuvre, arguing that it is one of the most significant films in the filmmaker's illustrious filmography.

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