Luck and genius are distant cousins. A film director, for example, may have the good fortune of capturing the right amount of sunlight or an actor's inspired improvisation, but for Robert Altman--perhaps the bravest filmmaker of his generation--manifesting such luck became fine art. His genius for corralling pitch-perfect ensemble casts while searching for in-the-moment inspiration was showcased in 1970's MASH, 1975's Nashville, 1978's A Wedding and 1993's Short Cuts.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Short Cuts, which captured honors from the Venice Film Festival and the Golden Globe Awards. The film will be showcased Oct. 8-10 at the College of Idaho's Langroise Recital Hall, along with two screenings of 1993's Luck, Trust & Ketchup: Robert Altman in Carver County, a documentary chronicling the making of Short Cuts, based on nine short stories and one poem written by Raymond Carver. (FYI: ketchup is a bizarre link to each of the stories.)
"I look at all of Carver's work as one story," said Altman in 1993. "And that's what I'm trying to do with Short Cuts."
Short Cuts is far from Altman's best work; it's barely in the top 10 of his 37 features, which earned praise from critics, loyalty from audiences, exasperation from studio executives and earned Altman a 2006 lifetime achievement award from the Motion Picture Academy. Though far from a perfect film--it runs a bit too long and its camerawork and editing are a bit sloppy--Luck, Trust & Ketchup offers a rare glimpse of the master at work and in that, it's still a treat for cinephiles in general and Altman fans in particular.