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What does matter is that I'm finally going to get to see my favorite film in widescreen.
I taped "Split" off cable years and years ago. I remember setting up the recording at some ungodly hour (3:25 a.m. or something) because I didn't want to miss it and I ended up watching the movie in its entirity.
Elliott Gould gives an amazing, lived-in performance as a lucky card player who takes a liking to a less fortunate gambler and, through a series of episodes, we watch them pass a few weeks hitting the track, going to boxing matches, playing poker, drinking, getting beat up and using a neat home remedy on their bruises over Fruit Loops. Their friendship is one of the best I've seen on-screen. Screenwriter Joseph Walsh appears briefly as Sparkie the shylock and it's a perfect cameo, a pre-"Sopranos" portrait of a crook haggard by the life ("Didn't I tell you that I've got busts happening all over the city, that my parents are in town, and you come in here and you don't have dollar one?")
This is a woefully underseen Altman classic, mostly because it's not available on tape or DVD, it's pretty rare. But it's a great movie -- I even have the one-sheet for "Split" hanging over my computer -- and I'm very, very pleased that I'll finally be able to see something *besides* the opening and closing credits in letterbox (it always seemed to underline the cruelty of pan-and-scan when, after the credit "Directed by Robert Altman" my beloved black bars disappeared).
California Split is one of Altman's trademark character-driven films. It is less concerned with plot than behaviour as we watch the friendship between Bill and Charlie develop over a mutual love of gambling. As the film progresses and the two men hang out more, Bill starts to become more addicted to the gambling lifestyle. He blows off work early to meet Charlie at the track and sells his possessions for money. Bill and Charlie are gambling addicts who ride the high arcs and the low valleys, never passing up a bet. At a boxing match they put money on the outcome of the fight with a fellow spectator.
Those who know Elliott Gould and George Segal only from their contemporary sitcom appearances (Friends and Just Shoot Me, respectively), should see California Split if only to see these guys in their prime and working with a master filmmaker at the top of his game. Gould and Segal have never been better and play well of each other. There is good chemistry between them as Gould plays the more experienced gambler in contrast to Segal's more naïve one.
Altman fans will enjoy the audio commentary included on this DVD.Read more ›
Also: when will Altmans "A Wedding" come out on DVD, a true lost classic (similar to Gosford Park and Nashville in style). It's been out of print for years and needs to be seen!
Instead, we get Robert Altman long before he and his fans became pretentious, Elliot Gould and George Segal (two GREAT 70s actors) at the top of their game, a story that NEVER condescends, and some wonderful widescreen cinematography.
It's not a classic, but it's not trying to be. It's just a funny, smart, touching portrait of a couple of down on their luck, but not quite broken, gamblers. Gets an extra star for having balls. SO refreshing.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This one also never seems to be available as a Netflix rental, so I bought my own copy. Several scenes are priceless - the mindset of people who gamble.Published 2 months ago by Paul B Chlapecka
OK gambling movie. The dice scene at the end was spot on as far as an idiot player killing a roll. My favorite gambling movie is "Let it Ride" with Richard Dreyfuss.Published 5 months ago by DICEGUY
A non-hysterical view of gamblers with a severe addiction, though told with humor and realism. George Segal gives his best performance as well as everyone else in the filmPublished 7 months ago by Stephen Schicker
It's a great movie about totally rootless people attached to basically self-destructive lifestyles. It is just so brilliantly done with many layers and nuances.Published 10 months ago by George