Don’t ask for the numbers because they are harder to find than Jimmy Hoffa’s corpse. You’ll just have to take my word for it: Quintet was a huge bomb. Not only is it a bomb, but it just might be Altman’s worst movie, and might even go as far as one of the worst, period. What is truly strange is that no one really remembers this movie. Its never mentioned in conversations like worst movies or big bombs. Its as if so few people saw it that it completely slipped everyone’s radar. Altman knowing his movie was terrible, buried everything that had to do with the movie like old copies of the Atari ET game. I’m getting ahead of myself though.
Quintet is set in a post apocalyptic futuristic ice age where no one can have children. Essex (Paul Newman) and his mysteriously pregnant wife come out of the frozen wasteland into one of the last remaining cities. The survivors play a game called Quintet constantly. Later Essex comes to find out, people are playing Quintet and gambling with their lives.
This was right at the tipping point of Altman’s career where he went from brilliant and abstract to completely friggin out there. The movie has a whole pseudo-Christianity symbolism attached to it. Essex and his wife are obviously Joseph and Mary bringing Jesus to Jerusalem. There are characters named after saints, stories similar to the Bible, and many references to the number 5. What do all these mean in relation to anything? I have no freaking clue. I have even read analysis on the movie (from all five people that have seen it) and they have no idea either. The movie actually works better as a statement of possibly environmentalism or human behavior. The people in this story know all about their plight, yet instead of turning things around they decide to waste time with a frivolous game.
Even the rest of the movie is surprisingly incompetent. The whole look of the movie is like the camera is smeared with Vasoline (or like when Captain Kirk sees a beautiful woman). I don’t know if that was intentional or a mistake from the cold or what but it is distracting. Also, besides Newman no one else can speak English so their phonetic line reads are dreadful. Also Newman looks like he knows he is in a real dog and phones it all in.
Okay, maybe this movie isn’t one of the worst I have ever seen. There have been far more offensive and ineptly made pieces of trash I suppose. Quintet has a little espionage element which is a little (just a tad) interesting. However this is Altman at his most pretentious and it is a low point in Newman’s career.