Watching this avant-garde mysterious drama by the great Robert Altman I couldn’t help but think of one of my favorite movies, David Lynch’s “Mullholland Drive”. Although nowhere have I been able to find that Lynch found a role model and inspiration for his surreal neo-noir in “Three Women” (he pointed out somewhere that his greatest role model was “Sunset Boulevard”), similarities and connections are inevitable. It is known, therefore, that Altman partly found inspiration for this dreamy drama about three women living in the same residential complex in California in Bergman’s “Persona.” In fact, the idea for “3 Women” was conceived by Altman during his sleep while his wife was in the hospital and he feared he would die.
He dreamed of directing a film with Shelley Duvall and Sissy Spacek about taking on an identity, and the plot takes place somewhere in the desert. He woke up in the middle of a dream, hastily scribbled notes, and although that dream did not offer him a complete story, together with screenwriter Patricia Resnick he managed to write a screenplay for a film that soon became his perhaps most airtight, weirdest, strangest and most avant-garde film. From the very beginning, “3 Women” moves mysteriously, enigmatically and a lot of things remain unclear, just like a dream that you only partially and fragmentarily remember in the moments when you wake up and everything seems somehow vague, confusing. When it comes to this film, it is fascinating, intriguing and masterfully designed, directed and acted, and I will definitely return to this film in a few years.
In the end, Altman really hired Duvall and Spacek for the lead roles, and the third was embodied by Janice Rule. Duvall is Millie Lammoreaux, a girl who works as a physiotherapist at a California spa where childish teenager Pinky Rose (Spacek) will come for a job interview. In addition to getting a job and Millie becoming her mentor, Pinky will also move into Millie’s apartment in a typical California pool complex where a third woman, Willie (Rule) lives. This mysterious and silent pregnant woman is a bit older than Millie and Pinky and is constantly kept to the side and on the walls and at the bottom of the pool she is constantly painting some weird figures. Her husband Edgar is the intrusive owner of the entire building and is constantly drunk and harassing all the other women who are there.
In fact, the weirdo Willie is constantly in the background, and all of them can’t be more different. Millie is a bit of a hipster who thinks she’s cool, popular, that she understands everything and imagined she could turn Pinky into a person like her. She also seems a bit obsessive, everything has to be as she says, everything has to be when she imagined something, and on the other hand Pinky is almost still a child. She acts like she’s 14, she blows through a straw into the juice, and indeed she will find a kind of role model in Millie. And while Millie thinks she’s popular, Pinky lets her believe it even though it’s becoming obvious to us that no one cuts her too much, and the first part of the film goes through getting a Texas country girl accustomed to city life and customs there.
Just like in “Persona”, later in “Mullholand”, in the moments when we think we understand what is really happening here and when it seems to us that things are starting to fall into place, there will be a complete reversal. And only then will nothing be clear to us. The trigger for all this will be one accident after which the story seems to start from the beginning and as if almost so we can forget about everything we saw earlier. Pinky claims that she is not Pinky, but that Mildred and this until recently completely submissive and obedient girl seem to be taking over domination and control. She almost turns into the person who was Millie until recently, and this one becomes confused and insecure who doesn’t know what’s going on.
and Spacek, and especially Duvall who won the Best Actress award at Cannes where the film premiered, are outstanding. The actress we probably remember best as Wendy Torrance from Kubrick’s “Shining” has achieved perhaps the best role in her life here, and the role of Pinky is a somewhat logical sequel for Spacek after Carrie’s groundbreaking role in De Palma’s film of the same name. Although Altman later explained what he really meant by this enigmatic, mysterious film, “3 Women” is one of those films that everyone can interpret in their own way. Indeed, no one until Lynch and “Mullholland” managed to make a film that works so well, even though it consists of two almost incompatible parts. And while the first half is a bit witty, ironic satire and a kind of study of the society and people of that time, the second part is a shocking psychological thriller, almost horror. Great movie to watch. Rating 9/10.
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