DIRECTOR: ROBERT ALTMAN
CAST: SHELLEY DUVALL, SISSY SPACEK, JANICE RULE
Alongside his more touted multi-character panoramas, Altman also had a fondness for small-scale dramas investigating the complexities of female psychology, and of these none is greater than the ineffable 3 Women, which finds Shelley Duvall, Sissy Spacek, and Janice Rule as young women thrown together at a health spa in the California desert that caters to the elderly. As time passes, personas become increasingly permeable, and the proceedings feel like something conceived in a dream—which, indeed, the movie was!
When I was 19, I took a very odd Ingmar Bergman scene study class out of a garage in Culver City. As part of the class, I had to memorize a monologue from Persona, and I went around repeating the lines to myself in my head. That same year, I saw 3 Women for the first time, and was struck by how Altman weaves the ghost of Persona through the film, quoting and doubling in on its themes in this weird mystical way. I remember images from 3 Women like I remember certain images from dreams: Sissy Spacek in the desert, shooting a gun in a hot pink crop-top; gauzy paintings on the bottom of a swimming pool; Shelley Duvall’s doll eyes, and her manic Life Magazine chatter. There’s a watery quality to the colors, washed-out pastels and lilacs and terracottas, that mimics the watery, mutable quality of these characters, and the tone is so peculiar and cryptic and witchy, as if from a mind not entirely tethered to this world.