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96 minutes · 2014

Produced for the Movie Channel, this documentary by Ron Mann (Tales of the Rat Fink) delivers a breezy, insubstantial survey of Robert Altman's long career, from his early years shooting industrials in his native Kansas City, Missouri, to his lifetime achievement award at the 2006 Oscars. Mann punctuates the fast-moving filmography with close-ups of familiar Altman players (Lily Tomlin, Elliott Gould, Sally Kellerman, Lyle Lovett, Michael Murphy) pithily defining the term Altmanesque, though these cameos prove less illuminating than the fond voice-over reminiscences from the director's widow and grown children. Given Mann's cursory treatment of even the landmark films (M*A*S*H, Nashville, Short Cuts, et al), this is most interesting when it explores the least-known periods in Altman's career—his 60s apprenticeship in network TV, directing episodes of Combat! and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, or his years in the wilderness between Popeye (1980) and The Player (1992).

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