Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Robert Altman remembered

Robert Altman’s sensitive genius was the heart of “A Prairie Home Companion,” his final film. The fictionalization of Garrison Keillor’s popular radio variety show was released this year.

It was not simply that Altman perfectly captured Keillor’s comic sense of the Minnesota melancholy. We’re a pensive people (I’m from Minnesota), we’re constantly aware we’re going to die, but we nevertheless love the wait.

It was that Altman was able to take Keillor’s voice and make it speak in a new way.

With his news from Lake Wobegon, Keillor always talks about folks who’ve grown tired but are strangely invigorated by warning their offspring about the perils of age.

Altman was wise enough to see that Keillor’s wholesome morbidity is the force that renews us all.

Death, in the movie, is not something to fear. It is a motherly angel of death who is kind enough to take a man during his greatest moment of pleasure: while waiting in his dressing room for a little nookie with his sweetheart. We should all be so lucky to die while feeling so happy to be alive, while waiting for something good.

I’m just thankful Altman left us with a final vision of what a great death really can be. He understood Keillor. He understood Minnesota. He understood me. At age 81, he went out knowing how I want to go: wanting more.

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