Cinema: Adrift in a Winter Wonderland

QUINTET Directed by Robert Altman Screenplay by Frank Barhydt, Robert Altman and Patricia Resnick

At first Robert Altman's new film looks like a baffling slice of metaphysical sci-fi—a sort of 2001 at Marienbad. Weirdly costumed characters with names like Essex and Ambrosia wander around a frozen, nameless city mumbling about the Apocalypse. Packs of vicious dogs appear in scene after snowy scene to gnaw on abandoned human corpses. The number five turns up everywhere: people wear five-sided hats, speak of a five-sided universe and play a five-sided board game called Quintet. What is...

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