After the success of last year’s McCABE AND MRS. MILLER screening, Ladies of Burlesque revisits master filmmaker Robert Altman with POPEYE, his baffling yet captivating adaptation of the beloved Depression-era comic strip. Featuring Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl—in a role that she was born to play—and Robin Williams in his cinematic debut as the surly, squinty-eyed sailor man, Altman’s musical is a fascinating cult masterpiece. And with a Duvall-inspired burlesque performance by Rubie Magnitude, we promise this is the theatrical experience of the season!
Filmed on the remote archipelago of Malta, Popeye was a notorious film production nightmare, with Williams referring to the set as a “stalag.” To build Popeye’s Sweethaven, a 165-person construction crew worked tirelessly for seven months, building wooden structures along the Mediterranean Sea (you can visit the set today, as it lives a second life as Popeye’s Village, a family-run amusement park). The handmade sets add a bizarre, gritty feel to the film. Colourless except for splashes of the ocean’s green-blue hues, it looks like a nightmare of slivers and tetanus.
POPEYE presents similar themes as McCABE AND MRS. MILLER with loneliness and alienation at its heart, as well a throwback brothel sequence. As a Disney co-production, it was conceived as a children’s film, however, Altman had different ideas and the results are complex and entrancing. That Altman could make a comic-strip adaptation featuring Robin Williams outfitted in prosthetic arms and a gaggle of oddly-shaped performers and completely reject camp is miraculous. If one film attests to Altman’s singularity, it is POPEYE!
This Ladies of Burlesque screening is generously sponsored by Hollywood Suite