***/**** Image B+ Sound B+ Extras B
starring Tim Robbins, Greta Scacchi, Fred Ward, Whoopi Goldberg
screenplay by Michael Tolkin, based on his novel
directed by Robert Altman
by Alex Jackson SPOILER WARNING IN EFFECT. In the opening scene of Robert Altman's The Player--an uninterrupted tracking shot lasting 7 minutes and 45 seconds--chief of studio security Walter Stuckel (Fred Ward) discusses long tracking shots with mailboy Jimmy (Paul Hewitt). Stuckel talks at length about Rope and Touch of Evil and says directors back then knew how to shoot a film. Jimmy mentions Bernardo Bertolucci's then-recent The Sheltering Sky and Julien Temple's Absolute Beginners as having terrific long shots, but Stuckel shrugs and mumbles that he hasn't seen them. It appears that Altman and screenwriter Michael Tolkin (adapting his novel of the same name) are illustrating a point about the insularity of the studio system and how the studios have no reference point outside their own past. Today, a complaint like that seems positively churlish. I honestly would not expect any of the newer executives to know or appreciate Rope or Touch of Evil, much less any current chiefs of security! In my view, anybody familiar with American cinema to that extent is already distinguished from your typical capitalist.