War: What Is It Good For? Film

People forget, but there was a time when Elliott Gould was the coolest man in movies. In films such as Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, The Long Goodbye, and the slight, superb California Split – perhaps the best film ever made about addiction – Gould was brainy, motor-mouthed, hilarious, and adult, sometimes uptight yet always relishing the new freedoms of his moment. In no movie does he relish them more than M*A*S*H, Robert Altman's dusty miracle of a comedy. Shaggy, spirited, and always sex-minded, M*A*S*H works through the high-jinks and hang-ups of combat doctors and nurses driven mad by the war -- Korea, officially, but Vietnam in spirit. As loose as the Marx Brothers yet more serious than almost anything Hollywood has produced since, Altman's film – like Gould's Trapper John – is in love with reckless freedom. It's the first mainstream picture to use the word “fuck” – John Schluck tells a bigger man in a football game “All right, bub, this time your fuckin’ head’s coming right off” – and, in the truest anything-goes spirit of Altman, the line was improvised, apparently after the great director had knocked off for the night. Tonight, the final night of SF Sketchfest, the film screens in M*A*S*H: Celebrating Robert Altman. Gould, Sally Kellerman, and Kathryn Altman – the wife of the late director – appear and discuss the film.
Sat., Feb. 4, 5 p.m., 2012

 
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