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Nashville (Blu-ray Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film
The Video
The Audio
The Supplements
Overall

SUMMARY

The lives of over twenty people in and around the music business and political world in Nashville, Tennessee overlap in this multilayered comedy-drama from auteur Robert Altman.

Long before the sprawling interconnected stories of more recent masterworks like Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights and Magnolia, or Paul Haggis’ Crash, Robert Altman gave us Nashville, this epic story centered on the lives of about twenty different people circling the music business in the eponymous city in Tennessee.

Altman’s 1976 film, from a screenplay by Joan Tewkesbury, is a genre defying epic that is both comedic, dramatic, and harshly critical in its summation of the fascination with fame and the corruption of political leaders in this post-Watergate era world (there’s a van for the never seen presidential candidate from the “Replacement Party”, Hal Phillip Walker, that periodically rails against the political machine).

Within the circle of characters there’s Albuquerque (Barbara Harris) a woman who runs away from her husband and dreams of becoming a country music star, Haven Hamilton (Henry Gibson) a veteran country music icon who has political ambitions, Tom (Keith Carradine) a womanizing folk singer who seduces the married gospel singer Linnea Reese (Lily Tomlin), and pretentious BBC reporter Opal (Geraldine Chaplin), who chases every star she can find to get a hot story. Altman peppers his interconnected story lines with numerous stars playing themselves, amongst them Elliot Gould and Julie Christie, only to emphasize the amount of starf***ing desperately taking place. And to drive the point home, there’s the character Sueleen Gay (Gwen Welles), a waitress desperate to strike it big in the country music business, but her lack of talent leaves her in a humiliating live performance and compromising herself to get ahead.

Like many of Altman’s films, Nashville has an easygoing, almost improvised feel to it that makes you relate to the characters and their plight or folly even more. Even when he is cutting with wit or obvious satire, Altman never forgets the humanism behind the the story, as much as he likes to push buttons, tackling everything from racial stereotypes, gender bias, and shallow excess. Take the scene with black country singer Tommy Brown (Timothy Brown) offered a slice of watermelon by Haven Hamilton as just one example of both a hilarious and deadly serious commentary on the socio-political state of America and the deep south in Altman’s Nashville. Or the ever-present “tricycle man” (Jeff Goldblum) who never utters a word but is somehow in the mix of all the goings on, like some easy riding wanderer adrift in a sea of madness, a jester, a clown, a nobody, or an everyman. Just one of the puzzling yet intriguing aspects of the ever-moving web that is Altman’s dramatic satire of the American dream.

The Video

Nashville was remastered from a 4K scan of the original elements and presented in this new Blu-ray edition from Paramount Presents in a 2.35:1 AVC 1080p encodement. This is one of the finest presentations I have seen on home video for this film. It has always seemed just a bit soft to me, but here it is crisp and has excellent detail while the film grain is thinly layered and natural. The 1970s color palette is very vibrant. I particularly like how Barbara Harris’ yellow dress pops or the rhinestones on Henry Gibson’s white suit glitter.

The Audio

Paramount provides Nashville with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. This is a little bit of a mixed bag just due to the nature of how Altman liked to capture his sound. Any Altman film is going to result in a little bit of muddled dialogue now and then as he liked to use the room sounds and not overdub or shoot dialogue on quiet sets. That said, the dialogue sounds just as it should and the 5.1 really works for the musical presentations like the brass bands or the gospel singers in the studio with Lily Tomlin and spots like that, where the music spreads across the soundfield in the front and into the surround channels.

The Supplements

Robert Altman was a great auteur so having his audio commentary for one of his great films on here is really a bonus, even if he gives a very dry commentary. The new featurette on the film is also a good watch. The release also comes with the now expected collectible packaging with foldout slipcover featuring the original lobby card artwork and insert with stills of key moments from the film.

  • Commentary by director Robert Altman
  • NEW 24 Tracks: Robert Altman’s Nashville (1080p; 00:15:56)
  • Nashville Theatrical Trailer (SD)

The Final Assessment

An absolute classic of the New American Cinema of the 1970s, Nashville looks and sounds as good as ever on this Paramount Presents release. This line from Paramount continues to impress. Highly recommended.

Nashville is out on Blu-ray August 10, 2021 from Paramount


  • Rating Certificate: R
  • Studios & Distributors: ABC Entertainment (presents) | American Broadcasting Company (ABC) | Paramount Pictures | Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Director: Robert Altman
  • Written By: Joan Tewkesbury
  • Run Time: 160 Mins.
  • Street Date: 10 August 2021
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Video Format: AVC 1080p
  • Primary Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1
  • Subtitles: English | English SDH | French
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