From Robert Altman, a bona fide American art movie, replete with symbols, Polanski-ish grotesqueries, mirror images, fantasy-reality obfuscations, and the like. It is supposedly based on a dream of Altman's, dealing with two Texas women in the California desert; but his inspiration evidently comes also from Bergman (Persona) and Antonioni (Red Desert), not least of all in his belief that the female psyche is the most proper topic for an art movie. The three titular women do not get equal time. Two have lurking, slinking positions in the movie, while the third, an irrepressible chatterbox with a Texas twang, fills nearly every available inch with her abundant ideas on beauty, food, and home decorating, culled from McCall's and Mademoiselle magazines. The reason she is allowed to dominate seems pretty plain. The relentless, redundant satire of her Barbi Doll lifestyle comes quite easily to Altman, and it gives him a respite from his "art movie" or "dream movie" pretensions. But by making her blissfully, foolishly oblivious to the derision of her neighbors and her co-workers (and her writer-director), Altman elevates her to nearly a Quixotesque heroism; and the portrayal of this character by Shelley Duvall is truly touching. Overall, the movie is an uneasy combination of elbow-in-the-ribs overstatement and brain-twisting enigma; but if Altman imperfectly imitates the substance of a European art movie, he is impeccable on the surface. His arid, spooky, suspenseful movie is beautifully modulated, somnambulistically paced, and buoyantly colored. With Sissy Spacek, Janice Rule. (1977) — Duncan Shepherd
This movie is not currently in theaters.