Robert Altman’s film The Player, in which he deals with whole cinematic history to fit Hollywood into the frame, is one of the cornerstones of his career.
Based on Michael Tolkin’s novel of the same name, won the “Best Director” and “Best Actor” awards at the Cannes Film Festival; The Player was known as the comeback of Altman, who had a golden age in the 70s with films such as M*A*S*H (1970), Nashville (1975) and 3 Women (1977), and was excluded from Hollywood in the 80s with his decline.
In The Player, Altman mirrors Hollywood, which has been positioned as a dream factory and ideological weapon since the invention of cinema. In a sarcastic and frightening tone, he sets his goal as showing the audience the corners of the frame. The narrative, which reveals itself with alienating effects, makes full use of the codes of conventional cinema. Thus, the film shows that it does not actually exclude itself from what it criticize.
Looking at the industry through a filmmaker named Griffin Mill, The Player‘s tricks to fit Hollywood into the frame become clearer as the film progresses. Altman’s camera swaying skillfully among his characters, big Hollywood stars running around in the background, manipulative movie posters that appear in almost every shot…
FILMS TALKING WITH FILMS
Griffin Mill is a Hollywood producer authorized to approve only 12 films a year. He listens to ideas from writers and often rejects them. In the opening, we approach the dynamics of the studio and the characters in a single shot that lasts more than 7 minutes. The characters, speaking with many references from Touch of Evil (1958) to Rope (1948), from Alfred Hitchcock to Martin Scorsese, encode the structure of the film from the very first moment.
A suspicious card arrives in Griffin’s office, and according to rumors his position in the office is doubtful. Through a movie poster, we know we are entering dangerous waters.
Griffin realizes that the suspect may be a turned writer, gets nervous when he learns that producer Larry Levy will be his teammate at the party he attends. When he gets the card that says “I will kill you on behalf of all writers” on the back, he looks at old records and finds the suspect author. Griffin, who meets with the author and offers a deal, kills the man on the negative answer and flees, making the situation look like an attack. The film had winked at death with the poster of They Made Me A Criminal. Hard to know, maybe this is Robert Altman’s “You drove me crazy” message to Hollywood…
WILLIS AND ROBERTS
To fit Hollywood into the frame, it criticizes the industry’s adherence to stereotypes and its secluded attitude. A system that ignores everything other than its own magic, or likens it to itself. Producers, who give speeches on the cornerstones of American cinema but have no idea on world cinema, and screenwriters who try to place Julia Roberts and Bruce Willis in every film, scurry around.
When Griffin meets writer David Kahane at the cinema, we see Bicycle Thieves on the screen. “You would give it a happy ending,” David replies to Mill, who jokes about the film’s remake. Griffin is hesitating with writers who come to him with political film ideas. Slightly politic can pass the filter, but radical political doesn’t have a chance.
Griffin finds it difficult to understand when British director Tom Oakley comes up with a idea of purely American tragedy in which an innocent woman dies without a happy ending. This gloomy movie, which will take place in prison cells and gas chambers, begins to be shot on the condition that add some sex in it…
THE PLAYER: SCREAMING WITH GAMES
The playful relationship that the film establishes with the audience begins with the name of the protagonist. Griffin Mill… Knowledge factory. This name is perfect for Hollywood, which teaches us how to live life. The posters in the movie constantly wink at the flow of the story, attacking the perception of the audience. Griffin suggests to David Kahane that he stop sending the cards by offering a new deal, while the camera is turned to a Japanese TV show on TV that says, “Let’s start over from the beginning”. Again, when Griffin is on the verge of a difficult decision at the police station with the appearance of a new witness, “Say NO!” we see in a poster.
The character is well aware that he is being watched and manipulated. We often catch him staring into our eyes. Mill, who tells his girlfriend about the components of a successful movie, does not skip the sex factor. After this scene, we see them making love. The film confuses the audience with the illusion of becoming what it criticizes.
Fearing police repression, Griffin’s temporary vacation is interrupted by the appearance of a new witness. The witness points to the detective who followed Griffin throughout the film, rather than Griffin, as the culprit at the police station. Thus, we prepare ourselves for a delicious happy ending. A year later, Griffin is vindicated. Tom Oakley’s art film turned into a heartwarming story where Bruce Willis saves Julia Roberts from death at the last moment, everyone is happy…
The Player has always held a special place among films that look at Hollywood. The most important factors that add dimension to the film are Robert Altman’s directorship that connects with the history of cinema and that he never separates himself from what he criticizes. Perhaps the film’s greatest feat is to denounce the addiction to happy endings, stars, and suspense-filled chase scenes, while actually showing how easily the audience can fall into this fantasy factory.
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