Robert Altman's Film Adaptation of Raymond Carver's Short Cuts

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Robert Altman's Film Adaptation of Raymond Carver's Short Cuts

The characters in Robert Altman's film adaptation of the Raymond Carver anthology Short Cuts think they're islands entire of themselves. They suspect their lives and their worlds of isolation, alienation, separation, in multiple senses of the words. They fail to see, or perhaps purposely ignore, connections between themselves and those around them, between their actions and the ramifications of those actions. And while a typical director of a slice-of-life work might be content to show all these people in their ignorance of connections, what makes Altman's final product so marvelous is the way he toys with them, and the comments he makes about them.

The obvious route
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But mostly it shows in the acting, in the narrative. The scene in which Gordon and Honey get each other's sets of photographs back from the developer is one of the most noticeable examples of this: the characters' stories are thoroughly independent of each other, and they might never have interacted if not for this scene. One of its main purposes is simply to let us know that all of these people are existing in the same world, the same town, that in some way, in a city inhabited by hundreds of thousands of people, the lives of these particular people do intersect. A similar function is served by the scene in which Jerry comes to clean the Finnigans' pool. Here we learn that the Finnigans live next door to Tess and Zoe, whose pool Jerry will later clean (because of the interaction in this scene), and both of whom are musicians who will eventually perform for perhaps a quarter to a third of the cast. Altman's eight-track dialogue technique is used effectively here to reinforce the notion that the characters' spatial proximity doesn't prevent them from leading isolated lives.

Another scene which, in my mind, is even better for this purpose is the one in which we first see the bakery. In this, three storylines converge: Stormy buys a cake for Betty, Ann places an order for Casey's birthday cake, and Claire stops in on her way to a performance

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