A Prairie Home Companion-attachment0

A Prairie Home Companion

Movie Information

In Brief: Robert Altman's final film is one of those rare occurrences in which a great filmmaker goes out on a high note. More, A Prairie Home Companion virtually serves as his own eulogy since the film is often a gently comedic exploration of death and its meaning. That it comes from a filmmaker fully aware of his own mortality (Paul Thomas Anderson was on call to step in and take over if Altman didn't complete the film) makes it all the more resonant. But don't get the idea that there's anything gloomy or maudlin here. This is first and foremost a comedy about the radio show that spawned the film.
Genre: Comedy Drama
Director: Robert Altman
Starring: Garrison Keillor, Kevin Kline, Virginia Madsen, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Lindsay Lohan
Rated: PG-13

Though it’s been sitting on my shelves ever since it came out on DVD, I don’t think I’ve actually watched Robert Altman’s A Prairie Home Companion since it came out in 2006. That’s nothing against the film. It’s just something that happens — a lot more than it should. This is a fine film that not only serves as a pleasant fantasy version of what it’s like to work on the radio show of the title (in this case the show’s “final broadcast”), but serves as perhaps the best swan song any filmmaker ever had. It’s a film made by any 81-year-old director who is well aware of his rapidly approaching mortality (Altman would be dead a scant five months after the film came out) — and the film serves as a farewell. Indeed, the movie deals with the subject of death for a good deal of its running time. There’s an actual death in the film (with the observation that “there’s nothing tragic about the death of an old man”) and even an angel of death as a character. But it’s by no means gloomy and is as much about life as death. Plus, it’s very much an Altman picture with everything that means — multiple characters, multiple dramas, cross-talk, a genially meandering structure, etc. In its own way, it’s a perfect Altman film. And it now has an additional resonance by showcasing Lindsay Lohan at the point where it appeared she was on the threshold of a significant acting career.

Here’s my original review of the film: A Prairie Home Companion

The Hendersonville Film Society will show A Prairie Home Companion Sunday, July 28, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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7 thoughts on “A Prairie Home Companion

  1. William Chase

    This is in my top 25 films of the last 20 years list! I love it so much!
    Ken, could you tell me what The Hendersonville Film Society is like? What’s the atmosphere of the Smoky Mountain Theatre?

  2. Ken Hanke

    You know, I don’t honestly know. I’ve never been there. Let me see if I can get someone who does know to answer you.

  3. Chip Kaufmann

    The Smoky Mountain Theater is located inside the main building of Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community which is located just behind the Epic Theaters in Hendersonville. They are in a shopping center across from the Blue Ridge Mall which is just off I-26 on U.S. 64 (Four Seasons Blvd).

    It’s not a true theater but a multi-purpose auditorium with a large pull down screen. There are no rows of seats, just sit down chairs with arm rests. The movies are shown via a ceiling projector much like at the Carolina Cinema Lounge only the screen is slightly smaller. The atmosphere is extremely casual.

  4. Chip Kaufmann

    Incidentally, Garrison Keillor was just out at the Brevard Music Center last night (July 23). He did a 3 1/2 hour show to a large and enthusiastic audience.

  5. Big Al

    Not a great film, but OK, certainly not a stinker. Very surprising that the same guy who made this, and other pretty good films, made the abominable “Popeye”.

    But I guess we all have bad days.

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