Three Women

Director: Robert Altman
Screenwriters: Robert Altman

Institute History

  • 1991 Sundance Film Festival


Altman claims, "This film literally came to me in a dream," and Three Women definitely has a dreamlike quality: it unfolds in flashes that are vivid, often surreal and not tightly connected to each other. Like the murals that Willie (Janice Rule) paints on the walls and swimming-pool bottom, the film eludes literal interpretations; it is on an emotional, primal level that it makes its connections, and it is also on this level that its characters relate to each other. Besides the silent, stoical, mysterious Willie, there are Millie (Shelley Duvall), a perfect product of American commercialism who extracts all her values from television and women's magazines, and the amorphous, passive, inscrutable Pinky (Sissy Spacek), who doesn't seem to have any values at all. During the course of the film, the three exchange places and personalities in some intriguing ways that raise more questions about personal identity and the search for meaning in a sterile society than Three Women attempts to answer. The film thus leaves us room and encourages us to evolve our own answers.

— Barbara Bannon

Screening Details

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