Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Ever the iconoclast

A late bloomer, Altman was a middle-aged TV director when he took over the reins of 1969's Korean war satire "MASH," reportedly after 17 other directors had turned it down. The movie tapped into a groundswell of opposition to the war in Vietnam and became a mammoth hit. It also established the director's genius for loose-limbed narratives and multi-tracked sound recording; a kind of controlled chaos that caught the mood of a culture in flux.

...Born in Kansas City, Altman originally worked as a small-time entrepreneur, tattooing identification numbers on household pets. He blagged his way into the White House where he tattooed President Truman's dog as a publicity stunt. "The dog barked," he remembered. That maverick, cavalier quality never left him. Even in white-bearded old age he was an unapologetic dope smoker and a fierce critic of George Bush's policies. He also continued to make films that beguiled and exasperated in equal measure.

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