Not your typical Western protagonists.McCabe & Mrs. Miller
is a 1971 western
film directed by Robert Altman
. Altman himself called it an "anti-western", as it ignored or outright subverted
a number of usual western conventions. The film at heart is intended as a more realistic portrayal of life in the old west
; something which one reviewer remarked would be like what a documentary filmaker might make if he traveled back in time to the era and filmed people going about their daily lives.
Starting with being set in the relatively wooded northwestern United States as opposed to the orange deserts of the southwest as most westerns are; professional gambler John McCabe (Warren Beatty
) turns up in the tiny town of Presbyterian Church (named after its only substantial building) one day at the start of the twentieth century, and quickly has the entire town under his thumb. He establishes a brothel with three prostitutes purchased from the nearby town of Bearpaw. Not long afterwards, opium-addicted brothel madam Constance Miller (Julie Christie
) turns up in town herself and convinces McCabe that she can do a better job running the brothel than he can, and that she will share the increased profits with him if he lets her do so. He accepts. The two flourish, but then a pair of agents from the Harrison Shaughnessy mining company in Bearpaw arrive seeking to buyout McCabe's business. He refuses, trying to drive the price up, but they lose patience and leave town. Miller warns him that the company has a reputation for sending assassins to kill those who won't sell. Sure enough, three gunslingers arrive shortly after. McCabe fights them. And dies. Remember that this film seeks to defy as many western cliches as possible.
This film provides examples of: