3 Women

by Angeliska on August 17, 2010

I had tried, on multiple occasions, to watch 3 Women – knowing instinctively
that I would love it, though I hadn’t yet seen many of Robert Altman’s films.
Something always went wrong. The disc had a flaw, and froze up, or everyone
had already seen it too many times. Finally, I gave it another try, and watched
it by myself one sweltering afternoon a couple weeks ago. I knew even watching
the opening credits, with the strange and watery montage of monstrous murals
that it would be one of my all-time favorite films. It really is incredible. I think I
need to own my own copy! I’ve never sat through the entire director’s commentary
on a film before, but this was that sensation when you finish an amazing book,
and just have the urge to turn it over and start reading it again, from the beginning.
The story of how the idea for the film came to Altman in a dream, fully formed and
cast, is so fascinating. I admire both Shelley Duvall and Sissy Spacek utterly – as
immensely talented actresses, outrageously beautiful women, and as fellow Texans!

They both put so much into their roles as Millie Lammoreaux and Pinky Rose, both characters
feel absolutely authentic in their oddness. Their accents are as familiar and sweet as milk
to me, and Sissy has always secretly reminded me of my mom (who was a red-headed
Texan also nicknamed Cissie). I was watching Inside the Actor’s Studio with Sissy Spacek
today, and I love how she says, “You know, being from Texas is like being a member of a
very exclusive club.” She’s right, too! We always seem to find each other, and have a very
particular understanding for one another, and also – an innate friendliness. We’re not earnest
like Canadians, but just very open, somehow. I love being from here, I must say. If I had a pair
of Texas-shaped sunglasses, I’d wear ‘em every day. I know they exist out there, somewhere!
What other state has sunglasses made in the shape of it, I ask you? None! Texas rules, man.

Janice Rule, who plays Willie Hart, also fascinates me. Witch-blue eyes staring ruefully, silent
in long skirts and straw hat. Always painting these bizarrely gorgeous murals on the walls of
drained swimming pools. Heavily pregnant, crouched with her brushes and pots in the hot sun.
She knows things, ancient mysteries, but she’s not saying. She watches, and paints, and carries
a deep sadness. The sorrow of the mother of the world. She’s a primordial crone-queen.

Bodhi Wind was the actual artist who painted the strange and savage murals,
and unfortunately, very little is known about him. He was incredibly talented artist,
a symbolist visionary, and something of a babe! Sadly, I discovered that four or
five years after 3 Women was made, he stepped off a curb in London and was
struck and killed by an oncoming car. I’ve found myself wondering about who
Bodhi Wind was, and where the inspiration for his beautiful beasts came from.
What wonders might he have created had he lived? I’ve also been thinking a
lot about the 1970′s – and all the brilliant drifters that simply wandered off the
horizon into oblivion. What did they leave behind? In an era before people
could simply be googled and found, you could just disappear, and leave no
trace. I wonder about the murals in the desert. Did they flake away, or get
painted over? Are they still out there, preserved in the pool of the Purple Sage
apartment complex, or hacked off the walls to grace the dining room of some
Hollywood luminary? I wish I knew. It seems he also did the cover art for the
album Elevation from jazz great Pharoah Sanders
. That’s all I could dig up,
alas. But who knows? There’s got to be some people out there who knew him,
who worked with him, who knew what his name was before he became Bodhi Wind.


Altman said it was so hot in the desert, that they couldn’t paint during the day –
the paint would literally boil and bubble. They had to wait until evening, and
drag lights down into the empty pools to paint by. Can you imagine?


This was his assistant, his friend, maze-painter. Who was he? Where is he these days?


I would have loved to have seen books of Bodhi’s paintings, galleries filled
with his mystic monsters. How would he have evolved as an artist? Mysteries.

I’ve been devouring Joan Didion’s collection Slouching Towards Bethelehem,
and the first passage in the first essay “Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream”
seemed so apt, seemed to perfectly describe the setting, and the rootlessness
of 3 Women. I’d never read Didion before, but I’ve got a stack I’m working through.

“This is a story about love and death in the golden land, and begins with the country.
The San Bernardino Valley lies only an hour east of Los Angeles by way of the San
Bernardino Freeway but is in certain ways an alien place: not the coastal California
of subtropical twilights and the soft westerlies off the Pacific but a harsher California,
haunted by the Mohave just beyond the mountains, devastated by the hot dry Santa Ana
wind that comes down through the passes at 100 miles an hour and whines through the
Eucalypts windbreaks and works on the nerves. October is the bad month for the wind,
the month when breathing is difficult and the hills blaze up spontaneously.
There has been no rain since April. Every voice seems a scream.
It is the season of suicide and divorce and prickly dread, wherever the wind blows.

The Mormons settled this ominous country, and then they abandoned it but by the time they
left the first orange tree had been planted and for the next hundred years the San Bernardino
Valley would draw a kind of people who imagined they might live among the talismanic fruit
and prosper in die dry air, people who brought with them Mid-western ways of building and
cooking and praying and who tried to graft those ways upon the land. The graft took incurious
ways. This is the California where it is possible to live and die without ever eating an artichoke,
without ever meeting a Catholic or a Jew. This is the California where it is easy to Dial-A-Devotion,
but hard to buy a book. This is the country in which a belief in the literal interpretation of Genesis
has slipped imperceptibly into a belief in the literal interpretation of Double Indemnity, the country
of the teased hair and the Capris and the girls for whom all life’s promise comes down to a waltz-length
white wedding dress and the birth of a Kimberly or a Sherry or a Debbi and a Tijuana divorce and
return to hairdressers’ school. “We were just crazy kids” they say without regret, and look to the future.
The future always looks good in the golden land, because no one remembers the past.
Here is where the hot wind blows and the old ways do not seem relevant, where the divorce
rate is double the national average and where one person in every thirty-eight lives in a trailer.

Here is the last stop for all those who come from somewhere else,
for all those who drifted away from the cold and the past and the old ways.
Here is where they are trying to find a new life style, trying to find it in the
only places they know to look: the movies and the newspapers.”

– From the essay “Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream”

Also, do please check out Going Home – a great essay by Kari Amick
for Wundkammer Magazine on Joan Didion, cranes, and the difficulty of going home.

“Whooping cranes are white birds, five feet tall, and graceful where they should be ungainly.
Like loons, cranes raise only one or two chicks per year. Unlike loons, cranes are endangered
enough to merit captive rearing to supplement their numbers. The trick to raising birds in captivity
is to look and sound like them, to stay silent and play crane calls through an mp3 player, to swaddle
one’s self in a white sheet with one gloved hand marked to look like a crane’s head: red forehead patch,
yellow eye, long black beak. Then when the cranes are introduced to other cranes they will migrate with
them, they will mate with them, they will not know that the difference between the misshapen thing that
raised them and the real bird they see now. They will follow the crane flock home.”


Man, I need to watch Coal Miner’s Daughter again! Badlands, also which
3 Women joins at the very tip-top of my all-time favorite films canon.


Sissy Spacek Interviewed for 3 Women at Cannes – she’s so elfin and perfect!
Look at her corn-flax hair, and that crisp blazer and her enthusiastic ease.

I grabbed all the best stills I could find for this post, with many thanks to
Miss Moodboard, Mister Ron’s Log, and John Waterson for making them available!
Also, check out Corbu’s Cave – The Painted Wall: From Cave Painting
to Le Corbusier and Beyond
for a nice piece on Bodhi.

Unrelated, save for their hues and beauty – some dewy sweet peas from Ecstaticist:

Wet Kiss

Sweet

22 comments

OH MY GOD i’ve been obsessed with 3 women for years!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

by suzanne meow meow on August 17, 2010 at 3:26 am. #

The details in this film! I’m totally smitten with the yellow robe Millie wears at the Purple Sage poolside!

by Eliza on August 17, 2010 at 5:33 am. #

this looks like something i must watch!

interestingly enough, i just recorded a song called “Three Women”, and i can only wonder if there is any part of it that evokes the mood of this film which i have never seen! the song can be found here: http://www.myspace.com/giagreene

by Gia on August 17, 2010 at 6:32 am. #

I love this post. 3 Women is the dreamiest.

I *kind* of know what you mean about Robert Altman but I have to count him in my favorite directors of all-time category because of my immense love for both 3 Women AND Images (if you haven’t seen Images you must, it has that similarly absorbing atmospheric quality but in completely completely opposite, eerie way). I also enjoyed Brewster McCloud – Shelley Duvall is giving her most divine looks EVER in that one, see:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/oola/tags/shelley/

Coalminer’s Daughter was probably my favorite movie when I was little and I still know every line by heart. I remember seeing 3 Women on cable at some point (pre-internet) and being completely mesmerized by it and then not knowing what it was for years…it was so graitifying when I was finally able to see it again and it completely lived up to and beyond the memory flickers.

+ Millie Lammoreaux in her hooded robe by the pool just kills me dead.

xo

by oola on August 17, 2010 at 8:24 am. #

Wonderful post. I never before wanted to watch 3 Women, but now I’m feeling compelled.
I also wonder about the time before the internet when people could just “wander off and leave no trace.” I think you can still do that, but people live so much of their lives online now, one dip into the electronic pool & suddenly you’re on record and reachable. But still, there are so many friends from my past I’ve never been able to hunt down… so many creative eccentric people. Women often vanish because they agree to change their names – but what happens to the men?
I love that you followed all that dry-dreamy-lonely imagery with photos of dewey sweet peas – I felt like I was drinking off them, parched & desperate, waking up from the desert dream in a cool garden.

by OdetteO on August 20, 2010 at 3:47 pm. #

I *must* watch this ! I love Shelley D.

And these paintings slightly remind me of the film “Where the Heart is”. Have you seen it ? Three siblings have to live in a decrepit Edwardian house in NY and one of the sisters is an artist and paints “trompe-l’oeil” on the walls …
I just love the whole ambiance of this film even though the scenario isn’t super brilliant.
http://custombyamy.wordpress.com/2009/02/04/muse-of-the-week-chloes-trompe-loeil-paintings-from-where-the-heart-is/

x x x
-m-

by mathyld ▲under the pyramids▲ on August 20, 2010 at 4:03 pm. #

PS : Also, Sissy does remind me of your mum …

by mathyld ▲under the pyramids▲ on August 20, 2010 at 4:03 pm. #

Dear Mathyld,
Thanks for the recommendation! I’ve never seen “Where the Heart is” but now I must! Those paintings are fantastic.
xooxo,
A.

by Angeliska on August 22, 2010 at 2:55 pm. #

I am Bodhi Winds’ mother and would be glad to speak with you at anytime. Please call me at 412-366-1761.

by Jean Kuklis on September 1, 2010 at 12:18 pm. #

Shelley Duvall is my all time favorite actress; and a truly underrated actress. Her performance in this film is spectacular, humiliating, and it’s breathtaking to watch her character grow.

by Earthmanjack on September 5, 2010 at 11:09 am. #

A haunting film,my favorite.You can look at this film in so many ways.It is an eerie,eerie film,especially the first time you see the end and dont know what to make of it.The imagery and atmosphere is so alive.Teh baby scene,teh pool paintings..it teeters on the supernatural almost.

by Nick Esposito on November 20, 2010 at 12:31 am. #

did anyone ever call jean? i read that she passed away.

by ferha on December 7, 2010 at 3:17 am. #

read that she passed away in the 80s

by ferha on December 7, 2010 at 3:21 am. #

If you are speaking of Bodhi’s mother, I can assure you she is still alive and well, as I am her daughter. She would still love to answer any questions that you may have about Bodhi.

by Judy Kuklis McKenna on January 30, 2011 at 8:43 pm. #

Thank you. thank you. THank YOu.

by Myrrh on August 30, 2011 at 8:07 pm. #

This is wonderful! I haven’t seen this film, but it sounds like it is wandering into my life at the right time. This post gave me shivers–two things I feel a strong affinity with are Texas and Joan Didion, its uncanny to see a love for them at the same time! When I took my road trip through Texas and Louisiana last summer, everyone asked “why Texas?” I didn’t really have the words, but I’m glad there are people like you out there who understand just why I had to, intrinsically. Have you read about Jorge Luis Borges’ time in Texas? Magic.

by Melissa on August 30, 2011 at 8:39 pm. #

great to see some love for 3 WOMEN! can’t wait to read more about your Bodhi adventure.

by Alison Nastasi on August 31, 2011 at 1:15 pm. #

I own one of Bodhi’s paintings done in Taos in 1987.
I have been trying to get more info on him. I purchased
the painting from him when I was visiting him with a
mutual friend. I would like to know his real name and to see more of his works. I met his friend Geary then and would like to contact him if possible. I love the
painting I have and would like to see more of his works.

by Anna Winter on March 29, 2013 at 1:43 pm. #

Hope you will check out the blogpost about Bodhi Wind’s artwork on my blog today.
Thanks for letting me pingback to your blog.
Ruth E Hendricks
http://rutheh.com/2013/04/29/the-extraordinary-art-of-bodhi-wind/

by Ruth Hendricks on April 29, 2013 at 8:26 pm. #

He died in San Rafael, Calif on Thanksgiving. His “assistant” is alive in San Francisco, Geary Holst, seen above painting a zigzag design on the mural. Geary did most of the base work for Bodhi and also did all of the frames. Bodhi did most of his painting in Taos in a home I frequented. Geary and Bodhi were great friends of mine. I spoke with Geary today.

by ANNETTE ADAMS on November 5, 2013 at 4:00 pm. #

This is a correction and response to Annette Adams. Last night I watched “Three Women” DVD with the commentary by Robert Altman, he said that Bodhi Wind died in London while he was passing the street and looking at the opposite direction.

Three Women is an amazing film.

by Mary on January 4, 2014 at 2:06 pm. #

i have just discovered your website. i was a friend of bodhi’s for many years…i knew him when he lived in galisteo, he was my neighbor and also in taos where i lived with him for a time. i also own one of his drawings that was given to me for a birthday present.
thank you for recognizing his incredible vision. he was truly an exceptional person and his creativity was extraordinary however, short lived.

by drea read on January 4, 2014 at 4:54 pm. #

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