California Split (Robert Altman – 1974) A-

Of course I cannot help but compare and contrast this Altman film to Croupier that I posted about recently. I saw both very close after each other on the Criterion Channel and they both revolve around gambling and gamblers. Yet, they cannot be more different. Our two protagonists here are not cool or smooth or polished. They are played by Elliott Gould and the late George Segal as Charlie and Bill. They are both low-level gamblers but Charlie seems to have more fun with it. No doubt they are addicts yet somehow Bill is more sad. Possibly because Charlie just does not have much to lose it seems. He lives one day at a time, drinks beer with cereal for breakfast and roommates with a couple of prostitutes. Bill is actually employed at a publishing house and might have a family somewhere. As they both go deeper into money troubles always looking for the next score we follow along as they plan a for major gambling event in Reno that will surely solve all their troubles. Gambling is such a second nature to them that everything is up for a bet, as they are getting mugged they basically are betting that the mugger will not shoot them if the only give him half the money! It’s not a plot-heavy film and is a classic Altman work in how the camera moves and how the dialogues is delivered with characters speaking with and over each other. We get to liking the characters, including the two prostitutes and we want to see them work all their issues out.

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