(1993)5Mark DemingA dazzling and dizzying adaptation of short stories by Raymond Carver, Short Cuts ranks with the finest work of Robert Altman's career; it's the sort of sprawling but intimate character piece for which he became known with such earlier classics as MASH (1970), Nashville (1975), and The Player (1992). While Altman's busy, overcrowded style might not seem a good match for Carver's clean lines and minimalist prose, Altman demonstrates an intuitive feel for the sleazy underside of Los Angeles (relocated from the Pacific Northwest in the original stories) that Carver's characters call home, and, like Carver, he knows how to let his characters express themselves with small gestures that say more than long speeches. The stories wind around each other with just enough connecting threads to hold the tapestry together. And as is his hallmark, Altman has assembled a superb cast and given them plenty of room to work; Jack Lemmon's monologue about cheating on his wife may be one of the finest dramatic moments of his career, and celebrated jazz singer Annie Ross creates an unforgettable portrait of a woman lost in her music. Short Cuts is the work of a master filmmaker in full command of his craft, and it's so absorbing that at the end of its three-hour running time, you may find yourself wishing you could spend even more time with these characters.