Robert Altman’s Nashville is the type of film that can best be described as a mosaic, an epic story of small moments, connecting dozens of characters over two hours and forty minutes. Films of this nature don’t get made often, and often get screwed up (the late Garry Marshall tried multiple times without success), but when they do turn out well they tend to be the kind of films that feel like grand statements on the human condition. Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia is one such film, and Nashville entirely fits the bill as well.
It’s not instantly clear in watching Nashville what exactly it’s about. This kind of film defies plot summary, defies theme, even defies character arcs to a certain extend; instead, this is a film that’s entirely about place, about feel, about its style and its music. As a result, this film doesn’t really come together until its closing moments, where it almost feels as if Altman is connecting the dots; suddenly, it feels like things come into focus.
You have to have the right frame of mind for this film, and it’s not a film I could wholeheartedly recommend to every cinemagoer; its length alone is inherently off-putting, and for all that Altman does try to distinguish all the characters, there are so many of them that some naturally get lost in the shuffle.
However, this is a film of such heart that it’s hard not to at least appreciate the mood and atmosphere of the film. I get the sense that, while I didn’t love this film on first watch, it’s a film that I’ll eventually revisit and have growing appreciation for. These types of mosaic films can be so impenetrable at first, much in the same way that a TV show like The Wire is tough to get into. With so many characters, so many character arcs to follow and appreciate on their own merits, it can be tough on a first try to really get the message of what is being said.
I don’t really have too much to say about this film because, on first watch, I feel like I’ve only digested a fraction of this film. This feels like a film that has to be revisited in the future to be appreciated.