A Film by Robert Altman
New Books Network 2023
“Drifting” seems like a great word to describe many of Robert Altman’s films, especially California Split, his 1974 buddy film with Elliott Gould and George Segal as gamblers whose friendship is strengthened by their losses. But Mike argues that the film has a deep structure—and one based on a Disney film that we’ve all seen a hundred times. Elliott Gould’s special brand of cool, how gambling relies upon a combination of conviction and control, and the ways in which the film is as interested in poker players as the game itself all come into the conversation. Go ahead—draw on that inside straight and give it a listen!
In this episode Dan reads a short passage from Frederick and Steven Barthelme’s memoir Double Down: Reflections on Gambling and Loss, a terrific glimpse into what motivates otherwise rational people to bet thousands of dollars on the turn of a card. Frederick Barthelme’s Bob the Gambler and Paul Auster’s The Music of Chance are two of the hosts’ favorite gambling-related novels.