April 3, 1977 [Three Women]

A little more than mid-way through Robert Altman's Three Women, I felt a moment of cinematic déjà vu ("I've seen this movie before") that seemed gray and grainy, something lying in the attic long enough to leave a silhouette in dust when I picked it up--and saw it was a silent film, The Female of the Species, a strange little thing made stranger by my dim recollection of it. I believe it was a tale of survival in the desert, the men dying, the women left to fend for themselves. It may have ended with a dust-storm, the three women--one holding a baby--pushing on, disappearing into a cloud of sand.

--And they finally emerge from the desert, decades later, to change themselves--not only into Shelley Duvall, Sissy Spacek and Janice Rule but also each other, the women swiping and borrowing to piece together their own version of womankind, alone at last in the perfect American wide-open space, hot and dry and safe. Like the women of that silent picture, they have to decide whom they will trust--even if that means denying themselves. But both pictures do not end in dissipation, let alone annihilation--not so unusual in the desert, where the Big Bombs and dry scrub make threats, not promises; no, as they move into the storm, they calm it, claim it--were those earlier three miners' women?--and settle themselves, like real pioneers.


  1. But the real question is...was there even a storm to begin with?

  2. You should check out the silent film mentioned above (go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5p3ixXl-Pvg). It's subtitled "A Psychological Tragedy," and it certainly tries hard to evoke a "waking-dream"-state. It's a D.W. Griffith picture with Mary Pickford. It also has an entry on this site.

  3. I just discovered this site through a year and a half old comment on Wonders in the Dark - I love this idea and will be going back to the beginning to scroll through. I have a similar exercise in mind for my own blog in the future (inasmuch as it's a chronological journey through the movies) but without the conceptual hook or the commitment to insightful brevity, both of which I love here. Can't wait to start playing catch-up...

  4. Thanks, MovieMan0283; Wonders in the Dark has been a great help, reminding (and informing) me of many noteworthy films. I'm glad you're enjoying this whatever-it-is. Thought it could've been a book, so the site is a first draft; I'm dutifully revising each entry on "paper"--and the briefer, the better.

    And your blog, http://thedancingimage.blogspot.com/, is beautifully put together, painstaking in its appreciation for film. I, too, look forward to playing catch-up.

  5. I find "catching up" to be the best approach - it's how I visit other blogs, and how I encourage others to view my own; there's too much going on at any one time to be "up to date" and I find the ephemeral blink-and-it's-gone approach both fosters impatient, brisk reading and causes one to miss out on a lot of great stuff. Any strategy that inculcates permanence is welcome by me. And thanks for the compliments.


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