Wednesday, 16 February 2022

Nashville (1975)



I do not like country music. Like in, I really do not like country music. That is a pretty important detail when you watch a 2½-hour long movie about Nashville, Tennessee, of which at least an hour consists of country music performances. It is bound to color my view on the movie.

This is a rambling movie with an enormous cast and uncounted storylines that may or may not interact. I have not recognized an over-all plot and that somehow does not feel important. In this sense it reminds me of Robert Altman’s earlier movie, “MASH”, where the buzz of the place is the objective rather than a traditional story arc.

Everything centers on the place, Nashville, and the music. In Nashville, that means country music. All the characters have an angle on the music. They are performers, wannabe performers, fans, promoters, exploiters, groupies or just hanging around because this is the place to be. You get a very clear feeling that in this place, everything revolves around the music industry and that all these people interact in strange connection with the sole purpose of promoting themselves to get a slice of the cake. Whether it is Opal (Geraldine Chaplin) pretending to be  from the BBC to get close to the action, Winifred (Barbara Harris) who has run away from her husband to pursue a career as a singer and tries to squeeze herself in where she can or Haven (Henry Gibson) who is working hard to maintain his star status to gain influence, and on and on. There is a singularly personal, if not selfish, angle to all the characters as if only they really matter.

I cannot tell if this is a celebration of Nashville or a ridicule of same. There is an element of satire, even mockery at times, of these people, but everybody acts in earnest and are dead serious about all this. This is what makes it funny, but also uncomfortable as when people do not understand why we are laughing at them. I also get this feeling that where I see a satirical exposé, others will see a love letter to everything that is great about this place.

My lack of understanding may stem from the fact that I am very much an outsider. As a foreigner, both to the country and the culture, and to the music, I am not qualified to judge this movie. I can enjoy it as a crazy spectacle and I can cringe over the music, but that can only be my personal view. I have a feeling Robert Altman was torn between love and disgust making this movie and that does make it oddly schizophrenic.

I am quite convinced fans of the music hail this movie as a masterpiece for getting into the soul of it and just as convinced that opponents to the culture that digs country music hail this as a masterpiece for exposing the hypocrisy, egoism and idiocy of it. Either way, everybody is happy.

This may also be the first movie on the List with the great Jeff Goldblum in an, albeit small, role. Those goggles are absolutely awesome and so is his bike.

I still dislike country music with a vengeance and while it did make it hard to get through the movie at times, there is no denying that on the whole I enjoyed the movie quite a bit.  


  1. I don't like country music either though I really hate country music from the past 25 years unless it's Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson. I only go to Patsy Cline, the Highwaymen, Loretta Lynn, Crystal Gale, and whoever did that "redneck mother" song.

    1. It is my impression that country music is more polarizing than most other genres. Likely because there is a lifestyle associated with it that you may or may not buy into, as if it comes with a set of values you need to accept. Maybe that is the case for most music really, just more than average for country music.
      I do not think this ruins this movie, on the contrary, it is part of the point I think, but there were time where I felt like muting the sound.

  2. I'm kind of in the same place with this, and I struggle with Altman sometimes. Nashville is a worthy watch, though.

    As far as country music goes, there's country and there's country. If you look at some of the classic stuff--Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, and the like, there's a lot to love. Classic country is about life and love and pain and sorrow, and a lot of artists have country roots. Fire up Warren Zevon's Carmelita sometime and listen to how much hurt is there, and you get why older country can get hooks into you.

    The modern stuff about drinkin' and trucks and how great 'Murica is? That's solid crap.

    1. That is the thing with music, it is very much a matter of personal taste and there is no objective truth.
      I live in a canal environment in the harbour area of Copenhagen and just outside my windows is a deck down to the canal. In the summer there are lots of people sunning and swimming in the canal (yes, it is quite clean) and that is just lovely. However, every other day somebody bring a soundbox to the deck and play loud music. I do not mind there is music and not even that it is loud, but it is TERRIBLE music and that pisses me off. My taste in music is just different from these people and that makes all the difference.