Perhaps the clue is in the name. For much of the 1970's (and a period in the 1990's, when he enjoyed a late renaissance), Robert Altman was the “alt” (as in alternative) to much mainstream cinema, especially in America. Where most movies are tightly focused on one or two characters and have a relatively straightforward story, his movies were often loose, even sprawling, featuring groups (or even whole cities) of characters, and sometimes seeming to possess no discernible narrative at all. But it is precisely for those reasons that Altman is one of the truly great filmmakers. At his best (as in many of this top ten, and especially his top three), his movies achieve a remarkable naturalism that, like all the greatest art, are almost more lifelike than life itself.
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