Musicians who are mega-celebrities. Hyped-up presidential elections. Assassination attempts against famous figures. A seemingly endless war abroad. A public largely disaffected from politics.
This might sound like a characterization of the United States today, but these are features of Robert Altman’s 1975 film “Nashville,” which will be screened from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, in the Cavan Auditorium of Gabel Hall on campus. Refreshments will be served.
Robert T. Self, professor emeritus of English and 2012 winner of an NIU College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Distinguished Faculty Award, will discuss the film after the showing.
Self, author of two books on Altman, says “Nashville” is one of the famous film director’s best movies.
“Selected for distinction on the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry, ‘Nashville’ is perhaps the best of many great films by Robert Altman, renowned director of ‘MASH,’ ‘McCabe & Mrs. Miller,’ ‘The Player’ and dozens of other films,” Self says. “The film is a challenging and innovative work of American art cinema that simultaneously remodels classical Hollywood storytelling and critiques American politics and popular culture.”
The film’s themes, which remain timely in this election year, appeal to a wide audience. The movie’s large cast includes Ned Beatty, Geraldine Chaplin, Scott Glenn, Shelley Duvall, Jeff Goldblum and Lily Tomlin, among others.
Self’s long experience as a professor of film and literature at NIU and reputation as the leading scholar on Altman make him uniquely qualified to discuss the film. Self is well-known in film circles for his first book on the director, “Robert Altman’s Subliminal Reality,” as well as his later volume on a single film, “Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller: Reframing the American West.”
During his career at NIU, which spanned 40 years, Self was loved by students, who admired his passion for film and genuine enthusiasm for their studies.
Colleagues considered Self a helpful mentor and supportive colleague. Self was also a founding member of the NIU Media and Culture program in Ireland, which often included visits to the Galway Film Festival.
In addition to teaching several generations of NIU students, Self served as director of first-year composition for 12 years, director of Graduate Studies in English, interim chair of the English department and acting associate dean for academic administration in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.
“Nashville” is being shown as an NIU Film Society event in conjunction with this semester’s ENGL 363 and 604 classes on film and literature. Professor Scott Balcerzak, who teaches these courses, notes that the film is one of the most important movies of the 1970s, a decade with its fair share of significant American cinema.
“I am sure my students will be surprised to see how Altman’s masterpiece remains timely in our own era of entertainment and populist politics,” Balcerzak says.
Amy Levin, chair of the Department of English and an avid film viewer, is excited about the event.
“The film was transformative for many people when it first appeared,” she says. “It was the year after Nixon resigned as president and the Vietnam War ended. The interconnected plots in the film allowed for multiple perspectives, an innovative filming technique that made the experience of watching similar to reading a long and engrossing novel.”
Co-sponsors of the screening include the Department of English, NIU Film Society and Phi Kappa Phi. For more information, email [email protected] or call (815) 753-0615.