Robert Altman continues to course over salient features of the American Scene with amazing speed and mobility. His leaps-and-bounds progress is made to look effortless, smooth, liquidy because of his habit of skimming, primarily. Here, he and his allies visit Music City, U.S.A., but they arrive there with their ideas already in place and unalterable. Their air of amusement seems smugly knowing and not at all enlightening. Altman and Company have edged up to their chosen site and have declined to get more than their feet wet. It is surely an audacious idea, and worth pursuing, to do a movie about country music which employs no authentic country singers, only songs written by the imposter performers themselves, and a musical arranger without country music background or interest. The result: a curious lack of excitement in the music, lack of awareness of the music audience, lack of appreciation of the creative work involved. Altman uses a Peyton Place complicated structure, a thick weave of characters and plotlines. But, without doing any real plotting, he uses it to disguise the fact that he deals in one-note, monotonous, uncomplicated characters and events. Still, there are a few agreeable faces in the milling mob. Karen Black, more than anyone else, makes a recognizable attempt to sing country-style. David Peel displays a scrubbed pink face and impeccable manners as a docile college grad whose function in life is to be his Papa's Pride. Lily Tomlin and two deaf-mute children create an interesting, arbitrary domestic situation, acting with perfectly straight faces in a movie overrun with smirks. Ronee Blakley, Allen Garfield, Barbara Harris, Henry Gibson, Keith Carradine, Geraldine Chaplin. (1975) — Duncan Shepherd
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