Robert Altman’s ‘Ready to Wear’

I used to watch Robert Altman’s ‘Ready to Wear’ a LOT as a young adult. Yeah, yeah, a big part of it was how scandalized I felt at all the nudity, but there were other reasons I kept coming back to this movie. 

First off, it has EVERYONE in it from Tracy Ullman to Tim Robbins, Forest Whitaker to actual Sonia Rykiel. 

But I don’t really wanna tell you about the movie plot; you can get a synopsis anywhere. PLUS, I want you to go experience it for yourself (as of this posting it is streaming on Paramount Plus) and then report back to me. I don’t wanna wait though, so just do it later, okay? 

I wanna talk about what it is I love about this, and all, Robert Altman movies. He’s a genius at capturing an industry. What he did for the movie industry in ‘The Player,’ he does for the fashion industry in ‘Ready to Wear.’

The story’s not the thing here, the slice of life is. Ugh, it sounds cliche as fuck but Altman *does* pull back the veil and show us, warts and all, what happens during a fashion week, brilliantly making use of the 1994 (I believe) Paris Fashion week already swirling on all around ’em. 

The soundtrack is also aces. When my daughter was growing up, I made it a point to give her a good movie education and I think I did an amazing job. However, recently I realized that she has two big gaps in the form of Robert Altman and Todd Solondz, both of which fell victim to my more conservative younger days. (and, if we’re being 100% honest a partner who had some real issues with the human naked body.)

I’ve since told her to take the dive and she took zero time in reminding me that we *did* listen to this soundtrack incessantly when she was growing up. I mean, duh, it’s *still* iconic to this day. 

And now that brings me to the reason I am writing this. I have a neurodivergent brain, featuring autism, OCD and something new and sparkling called aphantasia. So I have some unusual things going on in my brain at any given time… and that’s fine I accept and love my magical mind. It’s bought me some neat things. 

But then there are times when my brain tortures me with “Where is this *ultra-specific* thing from?” and it just lives there as a low level buzz, most of the time for a couple hours tops, but sometimes these buzz for years before reaching any sort of resolution. 

And I try to explain this phenomenon in musical terms, because in music, there is  tension and then relief when the resolution happens… and that is exactly how my brain feels. Like I feel a physical wash of relief when one of these buzzes ends. 

My most recent extended buzz was a scene in a book about two sisters who poisoned one of their husbands slowly using lead shavings (the hubby was a stained glass artist, you see.) I asked all the readers I knew for years, no one could place this scene. 

After about 5 years of trying to figure this out, I revisited a book that I love “I Know This Much is True” by Wally Lamb. BAM smack in a side story… there it was. I literally had tears of relief. 

I experienced another one while watching ‘Ready to Wear.’ I recently became obsessed with ‘The Leftovers’ and spent about 3 months listening to nothing but the soundtrack on repeat every time I needed tunage. There was an opera song that always made me do a head twitch, because it reminded me of a very specific movie scene.

Let me describe it for you:

  • The sounds: Two gorgeous opera singers singing a haunty but happy tune (I later found out it is Offenbach: Les Contes d’Hoffmann / Act 2 – Barcarolle)
  • The place: A very fancy setting with fancy people
  • The feeling:  an outsider looking in

Oh I guess it is important to say that this thing I have, aphantasia, is a condition in which I am unable to visualize anything in my head. I cannot ‘see’ images in my head. I close my eyes and see nothing but black. So, this is particularly annoying to try to explain without being able to, like, draw a picture or something. 

The instant the scene in the movie started, a sense of calm started flooding my whole body. And the minute those two angelic voices started singing, I felt tears in my eyes. This has been a low level buzz in my brain for months and now it’s resolved and symphony or whatever can finally come to a close. 

And so can this blog I guess? I don’t know how to end things. 

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