Massage In A Brothel

Warren Beatty and Julie Christie in arty, autumnal 1971 tale of the Old West

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In this defiant anti-western from Robert Altman, searing desert sunshine has become thick mountain rain, Utah is swapped for British Columbia, the saloon is a brothel, the women are heroes, the men are cowards, and in gunfights you shoot to kill?in the back. In this shadowy world, lit mostly like a Dutch master by Vilmos Zsigmond, Warren Beatty’s bumbling, insecure pimp is the perfect protagonist. His ambitions, his towering self-doubt, his coyly romantic relationship with brothel madam Julie Christie, and his final desperate showdown with three hired killers provide the movie’s cool nihilism with a warm, resonating soul. It’s impossible not to be moved by Beatty as McCabe, pre-gunfight, alone, utterly terrified, rehearsing a courtship speech he’ll never give. “I got poetry in me!” he says to himself, voice cracking with emotion, “I do! I got poetry in me!” One of the best westerns, ever.

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