A treat last night when the Showtime channel on our satellite TV presented Altman's "A Prairie Home Companion". After arriving in the U.S. from my native Slovakia, I spent several years of my adolescence in the mid-west and so was able to easily identify with the music, and radio broadcast format, of this nostalgia producing film. Although we had no electricity on our rural Kansas farm, we did have a radio which was powered by two car batteries which were charged by a small windmill attached to the side of the house.
"What a lovely film this is, so gentle and whimsical, so simple and profound. Robert Altman's "A Prairie Home Companion" is faithful to the spirit of the radio program, a spirit both robust and fragile, and yet achieves something more than simply reproducing a performance of the show. It is nothing less than an elegy, a memorial to memories of times gone by, to dreams that died but left the dreamers dreaming, to appreciating what you've had instead of insisting on more.
Like the show that inspired it, "A Prairie Home Companion" is not about anything in particular. Perhaps it is about everything in general: About remembering, and treasuring the past, and loving performers not because they are new but because they have lasted. About smiling and being amused, but not laughing out loud, because in Minnesota loud laughter is seen as a vice practiced on the coasts. About how all things pass away, but if you live your life well, everything was fun while it lasted. There is so much of the ghost of Scott Fitzgerald hovering in the shadows of this movie that at the end I quoted to myself the closing words of The Great Gatsby. I'm sure you remember them, so let's say them together: And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. " [ Roger Ebert.com ]
I was surprised, and delighted, to find a lengthy and well written review of 'A Prairie Home Companion' in the Rossiskaya Gazyeta [ Российская газета ] - in Russia the film is entitled "Друг прерий" [Friends of the Prairie].
Prior to December of 1991, when the Soviet Union was dissolved, the communist world was hidden behind a curtain of secrecy and Hollywood films were taboo. What a phenomenal change in only 16 years.
Yesterday I was reading a news item in Izvestia [ Известия ] that the communist party apparatus in St. Peterberg, still clinging on to their last bit of conservative power, had condemned the new Indiana Jones movie, complaining that its portrayal of the Russian villains is insulting and historically inaccurate. However their condemnation seems to have had little effect on the long lines of people waiting to see the film.
Perhaps people all over the world are waking up to the fact that politicians no longer have any credibility.
And a film review in Izvestia was somewhat complementary in commenting that: "We [Russians] shouldn't be offended. We are the only people in the world who can understand Blanchett's heart-rending shrieks."