I’m not a huge fan of Robert Altman’s movies, so I admit I went with trepidation to see his film 3 Women at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts last night. Fortunately, the evening was bolstered by the presence of composer Gerald Busby, who wrote the score to the picture and was slated to speak about it after the showing.
It was a good thing he did, because the film was very peculiar and not all that successful. The tale of a California nursing-home worker (Sissy Spacek) obsessed with her quirky colleague (Shelley Duvall), 3 Women at times was like watching the most intriguing, bizarrely colored paint dry. It had an off-the-cuff feeling that gave the impression it was made up as the shooting went along, and the characters’ motivations weren’t always believable. Busby’s score was the best thing about it: a dissonant, modern chamber piece replete with mournful, dread-filled horns and winds. Following the screening, he took the podium to talk a little about the movie, and it was quite a treat to listen to this dapper, elderly gentleman.
Busby spoke about Altman being “a Gershwin man” yet wanting something different and abstract for his film, as well as the process of showcasing his music to a room full of Altman staff and regulars stoned on marijuana. (According to Busby, he was one of a few composers to be considered for the film, and as part of the process, the compositions were played in the room to see how long people could go without speaking about them; people listened to his work the longest without saying something, which helped solidify the choice.)
All in all, it was quite a lovely evening, and I got to meet Busby as well, who lived in the same building as a good friend of ours. Plus, it was free, so that made watching the film all the more palatable. A not-so-typical New York night out, but a memorable one, nonetheless.