Why the birthday party didn’t happen

Michael Wood

Robert Altman’s Short Cuts is a long, loose-looking movie, but the looseness is an effect, carefully worked for. Plenty of themes recur throughout – insecurity, chance, rage, damage, the long, bruising war between men and women – and although there are fourteen or fifteen stories here (based on extrapolated from ten stories by Raymond Carver – the handouts and the introduction solemnly say nine stories and a poem, but the so-called poem is also a prose narrative), they are intricately stitched together, like a miniaturised Comédie humaine set in Los Angeles.

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