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Luck, Trust, and Ketchup: Robert Altman In Carver Country (1993)



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Luck, Trust, and Ketchup is a documentary about one of the finest films of the 1990s, Robert Altman's Short Cuts. It consists mostly of critical analyses of the film, interlaced with clips from the set, which shed light on Altman's laid-back directorial style.

The critical analysis portion of the documentary affirmed what I suspected about Short Cuts soon after watching it -- that it is practically impossible to say everything there is to say about it. The film and the ideas it represents cannot be explored to their fullest extent. In Luck, Trust, and Ketchup, Robert Altman, Tess Gallagher (the widow of the author of the short stories that Short Cuts is based on), and nearly every cast member are interviewed, and they all have intriguing insights as to what Short Cuts is about and what it means. It pleased me, both personally and in recognition of the film's depth and eloquence, that my own musings complimented everyone else's -- they were consistent with them and yet unique.

The footage from the sets is just as interesting, although I wish there were more of it. The clips were plentiful enough to hint at what life on a Robert Altman set must have been like but not substantial enough to explore his working style in depth.

At the same time, this is one of the best "Making of..." documentaries I've seen. Most are quick, dizzy vignettes that let viewers glimpse their favorite stars behind the scenes but are utterly incapable of projecting the impression of life on the set. Luck, Trust, and Ketchup (by the way, the rationale behind the title becomes clear as you watch it) not only does that but does it with feeling and compassion about the ideas and artistry behind the endeavor. I recommend this documentary highly to lovers of film in general and of Short Cuts specifically.

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