By Ben Brock | The Playlist June 12, 2013 at 11:25AM
Robert Altman is perhaps one of the finest directors America has ever produced, and his best films – the '70s masterworks “M*A*S*H*,” “McCabe and Mrs Miller” and “Nashville,” the final flourish that was “A Prairie Home Companion” - are soaked in Americana. But today, his most influential and widely seen film is probably the 2002 English country house murder mystery “Gosford Park.” Look no further for proof of this than Julian Fellowes, who wrote the movie's script and, years later, pitched a little idea for a TV spin-off that ended up becoming “Downton Abbey.” You might have heard of it.
Anyhow, during the making of “Gosford Park” -- a film with the most unwieldy ensemble cast of stars since John Wayne got one line in “The Greatest Story Ever Told” - Altman's set was visited by the BBC documentary show “Omnibus," who made the hour-long making-of-cum-retrospective that you now have before you, featuring contributions from Altman himself (who passed away four years later), many of his collaborators and Gosford cast.
This writer, being British and getting quite enough of it in his daily life, never quite saw the point of Altman's saga of snobbery and repression (and also hates “Downton Abbey”, so...), and if you agree that Altman made his best films in America then you might want to skip past Julian Fellowes blithering on about baronesses' daughters (and “Eskimos”, for some reason). But the glimpses of Altman's wider career, including scraps of the educational basketball movies with which he got his start, are fascinating, as are Altman's discursive musings, including his cheerful announcement that he doesn't really know the plot of the movie he's in the middle of directing. He also doesn't really remember why he did all that camera-moving stuff in “The Long Goodbye,” but he's sure it didn't have anything to do with what was going on on screen. Only Altman could get away with this kind of thing. Enjoy the doc below and be sure to check out 10 Robert Altman Films You May Not Know.