From Nashville to The Player to Gosford Park, Robert Altman's irreverent, iconoclastic style has palpably altered the landscape of American cinema. Cited as an influence by such envelope-pushing directors as Spike Jonze and P. T. Anderson, Altman has created a genre all his own, notable for its improvised, overlapping dialogue and creative cinematography. One of the key moviemakers of the 1970s – commonly considered the heyday of American film – Altman's irrepressible combination of unorthodox vision and style is most clearly evidenced in the fourteen movies he released across that decade. By fine-tuning his talent in a diverse array of genres, including westerns, thrillers, and loopy, absurdist comedies – all subtly altered to fit his signature métier – he cemented his place as one of our most esteemed directors.
In these conversations with David Thompson, Altman reflects on his start in industrial filmmaking, as well as his tenure in television directing Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Bonanza, and his big break in feature films as the director of the enormously popular M*A*S*H, a project for which he was the last possible resort behind fourteen other directors. The resulting portrait reveals a quixotic man whose films continue to delight and challenge audiences, both in the United States and beyond.