105 Must See Films

105 Must See Films: McCabe And Mrs Miller (1971)


Starring: Warren Beatty, Julie Christie

Director: Robert Altman

Card hustling McCabe (Beatty) finds himself in the small mining town of Prebyterian Church (yes, that’s the name of the tiny town), and sets himself up as a small time pimp, until he teams up with the business savvy but opium smoking Mrs Miller (Christie), who improves his business. But things get complicated when a large, corrupt corporation move in and want to forcibly buy the business, and McCabe refuses to back down.

In this film, it all seems to happen over the course of one Winter, and the chemistry between the two characters, who seem to need their independance and each other, is part of the dynamic. Mrs Miller is a smart woman, and she improves business with her smart ideas, whilst McCabe can barely understand the account book. But his stubbornness is their undoing.

The film is a very non-traditional Western, with no real good guys, and a haunting, very 70’s dream like sound track, which I really liked. It commentates the drama of the story, and sets a really interesting tone to the film.

It’s A Must See Because: McCabe is a man who has lucked into his power, because people think he killed a man, and because his business partner is so smart. It’s so easy for it all to come crumbling down, and that is not a usual theme or plot for a Western. The look and feel is so different, with the images exposed to give them a certain feel and texture that is more like a vintage photograph, nostalgic, and the Leonard Cohen music carries a level of mood and exposition. It’s also Julie Christie, a more sober character in juxtaposition to the huge fur coated, loud Beatty, who was nominated for an Oscar. They are two halves of a whole, two different and opposing types. Yet both are destroyed by themselves.

With the films theme of a corrupt power in the corporation who wish to forcibly take over, it’s an anti-Western, there is no heroic little guy here. There is no frontier, but a long Winter in it’s place.

See It If: This film is such an iconic piece of 70’s cinema, see it for it’s unusual outlook, and excellent performances.


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