A self-referential introduction to the world of make believe, the opening single take sequence to Robert Altman’s The Player is a formula-bending ode to a classic. Altman’s wonderful analog parlor patter follows the scenery as the storyline unfolds between storylines. Clever quickly turns classic as the film is established as something more visual flourish than acerbic satire. The sequence segues nicely to the next title in this ongoing “Single Take Titles” feature post.
From the 1997 New Line Platinum Series DVD, Robert Altman on The Player:
I had to set up the movie studio and wanted to set up the characters that we were going to be dealing with and I wanted to get the audience’s attention, to tell them that they had to pay attention. And I actually built a scale model of the set with a crane to see where I could go. Then we choreographed all the positions. We introduced this [film] in one reel, which was nine minutes.
All of the various things that happen were all planned pretty well, but none of the dialog was. It was all improvised…We did about 15 takes, with 11 microphones. We rehearsed it for a day, we lit it and came back the next day, which was a Sunday, and we shot it in half a day. It turned out to be a very efficient way to get ten minutes of film. And you save your editor’s fee. It’s a very conceited thing, this shot with no cuts, it draws attention; it’s of the mode of people who make pictures. It is showing off. It sets the picture up…it’s like music [in that] it tells you what kind of deal you’re in. It’s a satire on the way people behave in these movie studios.
There was such a fuss about it. People were afraid I was going to do this or that. The more afraid they got, the more ideas they gave me. Looking back on this picture, it is a pretty tame satire. This is no big indictment. Things are much, much worse than this picture seems to say. The truth of the matter is I cannot make the kind of movies [Hollywood] wants to make. The kind of movies that I like to make, and can make, and make are not the kind of films they know how to distribute. So we basically aren’t in the same business. There’s no point in calling me to make a pair of gloves for you when I make shoes.
Title Design: Dan Perri