Sunday, January 24, 2010

An Evening with Elliott Gould

Today, I went to the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge where a series of Robert Altman films were being shown.

Yes, it was Altman who said in November 2000 that he would move to France if George W. Bush was elected President. He never did.

In January 2002, it was Altman who said, "When I see an American flag flying, it's a joke."

But I like his movies anyway. Why? Because people talk like human beings in them. I am referring to the instances where several different characters are speaking at once. Yes, it is difficult to understand. But how often have you been in a situation where there are several people talking at the same time? To have that presented in a movie shatters the artifice of dialogue. His movies were also full of black humor.

First, I saw Brewster McCloud starring Bud Cort, Sally Kellerman and Mike Murphy. Kellerman and Murphy participated in a panel discussion with Altman's widow Katherine.

But the main reason I attended was to see The Long Goodbye starring Elliott Gould. He would participate in a Q&A following the movie.

I've seen The Long Goodbye on several occasions. It is the only movie which featured Jim Bouton in the cast. Bouton was the former major league pitcher famous for writing Ball Four. I first read that book in the eighth grade and it turned my life upside down. In fact, June will mark the 40th anniversary of its release and I am planning to column to it. So naturally during the Q&A, I asked Gould about Bouton. He told me that Bouton was "very attractive." Somehow I will find a way to include that quote in the column.

Gould tended to wander during his talk. I can see how directors other than Altman found him difficult on the set.

He also made a quip about Senator-elect Scott Brown. In explaining the end of The Long Goodbye when he kills Bouton's character Gould said, "It's safe to come out. Until your new Senator takes office." Laughter ensues. Of course, this is the People's Republic of Cambridge. But I've been here nearly ten years. It comes with the territory. I would have been shocked if there hadn't been some kind of snide reference to the election.

But Gould did make a point of saying that Altman's films refkected the dark side of America. Kellerman made similar comments earlier in the day. Now that does bug me a little bit because there's evil wherever human beings can be found. It isn't confined within our borders. Yet whenever I hear someone talking about America as if it were the most horrible place on earth I wonder why they remain here. Well, there's really not much to wander about. They might not like the nature of American politics but they sure don't mind American money. I'm sure that's why Altman never followed through on his threat to leave the country once Bush was elected.

But all of that said I can disagree with an artist's point of view but still find something to enjoy in their work. The fact is I've had an affinity for Elliott Gould for as long as I can remember. The thick curly hair which he still has although much greyer. The deep resonant voice. He was born Elliott Goldstein. What's not to like? Besides asking Elliott Gould a question is one more story I can pass onto my children - should I ever have any.

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