53. 'McCabe & Mrs. Miller'
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A grufty figure shambles out of the forest and fires up a cigar. Shivering in
Pacific Northwest cold and rain we feel in our very bones, we're drawn to that
flare of warmth and color, and to McCabe, silver-tongued gambler (Warren Beatty) come to parlay a
smattering of lean-tos into the thriving town of Presbyterian Church. Business
and bed partner Mrs. Miller (Julie Christie) sees through clutzy
con-artistry to the poet McCabe is at heart; but only profit can warm this sad
"winter lady." (The movie's potent images of shelter and exclusion everywhere
reflect gravel-voiced Leonard Cohen's lyrics.)
Bing: Watch scenes from 'McCabe &
What glorious refuges from dank wilderness McCabe & Miller, Inc. create!
Raw-timbered saloon and brothel are wombs of golden lamplight, music, creature
comfort. Forget the spired, dark house of worship on the hill; McCabe's joints
offer palpable community, sensual sanctuary. His lowdown Eden is populated by a
motley tribe of sinners and misfits, "sisters of mercy" and cowboys and holy
Cold capitalism drives McCabe outside his clean, well-lighted places into a
snowfall cinematographer Vilmos Szigmond somehow magicks into flakes of gold,
burying the "dealer who wanted to trade his game for shelter." Such a soft and
silent end to this killer parable about commerce and creativity, the high cost
of dreaming in Presbyterian Church — or the City of Angels. — Kathleen
Murphy (Warren Beatty, Julie Christie in "McCabe and Mrs.
Miller"/©Moviestore Collection/Rex Features)