Short Cuts 1993 ****

All-star films get a bad name, but Robert Altman’s weaving together of Raymond Carver’s short-stories is one of the best, ranking alongside his own musical opus Nashville. A snapshot of the lives of a series of LA residents in the period before, during and after an earthquake, this is no conventional disaster movie; the real chaos is in the way the stories connect. Star-turns include Jack Lemmon’s grieving father, Robert Downey Jr’s chainsaw wielding crop-duster, Julianne Moore as an emotionally unstable face-painter, and Tim Robbins as an adulterous LA cop. Singers Huey Lewis, Tom Waits, Lyle Lovett and Annie Ross all do well with substantial roles, and key scenes (the fishing trip, the unfortunate cake, and the mix-up at the photographers) convey the essential humanism of Carver’s worldview. Short Cuts may be overlooked in comparison to PT Anderson’s similarly sprawling ensemble piece Magnolia, but Short Cuts is a masterpiece in its own right.


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