Christian’s Cinematic Syntax: The Player (1992): Hollywood Conventions & Western Civilization

*Warning: Spoilers Ahead*

Director Robert Altman revitalized his career after box office disappointment Popeye (1980) did not meet studio anticipation, with 1992’s The Player. Supposedly, Altman did not want to make The Player. He wanted to do a film based on Raymond Carver short stories called Short Cuts, but the project lacked the funds until after the success of The Player. In an interview with the Criterion Collection in 1992, Altman speaks on his linear movement as a director. He demonstrates with arm movements that the audience is doing a sort of loop around his linear movement forward, and when they hit— that means a successful movie. Altman, as an auteur, saw all his projects as equal in quality. By considering all of these projects equal, he demonstrates a dedication to his craft and that he did not believe that success and money determined the quality of work. With the Player, starring Tim Robbins as Griffin Mill, Altman continues his tradition of taking a singular place as a microcosm of the United States and Western Civilization. Griffin Mill is a Hollywood executive producer who kills a writer and gets away with it. The classic Hollywood happy ending, and the good guy vs. bad guy classical Hollywood narrative conventions, are just some of what Altman tinkers with in the 124-minute runtime. In the same interview, Altman states, “I do not believe there is such a thing as an all bad guy and an all good guy.” This is in reference to Griffin Mill, the character who commits a heinous crime but is ultimately untouchable. We follow him and even sometimes root for him even though he is a murderer. In The Player, Robert Altman purposely subverts and uses the traditional Hollywood standard and satirizes the more current “blockbuster trend” and studio system to skewer the problems of the United States and Western Civilization.

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