ROBERT ALTMAN. I was lucky enough to see a beautiful 35mm restoration of La Regle Du Jeu last week. The most obvious modern inheritor of the "open" filmmaking style invented by Renoir, Robert Altman, has died.

Altman was a risk-taker, and as is well-known this made him uneven. (Pauline Kael, one of his biggest critical supporters, said about the disastrous Quintet that "Altman has reached the point of wearing his failures like medals. He's creating a mystique of heroism out of emptied theaters.") But the upside is that he made a number of pictures that will be seen as long as people watch American movies. For me, the canon starts with the hauntingly lovely McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Nashville--his most successful Renoir-style social panorama--and the superb late-career Raymond Carver adaptation Short Cuts. And since any fan needs one, my favorite of his less-lauded pictures is California Split, his loose, amiable picture about happily degenerate gamblers. He was a giant of American film, and will be sorely missed.

--Scott Lemieux

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