Perhaps the defining moment of Robert Altman’s legendary career. It was here, after all, where Altman’s signature traits were all assembled and perfected: the extensive ensemble cast, the fluid and unforced narrative, the overlapping dialogue that freed the movies from the
stilted patter of the stage and injected them with the interrupted babbling of real conversation. Nashville follows no fewer than 24 characters over the course of five days in the title city, as the campaign manager (Michael Murphy) for a third-party presidential candidate tries to round up a slate of country-music stars for a benefit concert. Established performers, desperate wannabes, groupies and other various hangers-on all float in and out of Altman’s frame. Added together, they reveal how the quest for fame is the pop-culture form of American upward mobility.