The Angel Of Death haunts Robert Altman’s last film, A Prairie Home Companion. There is the in film death of one of the artists. There is the actual death of the theatre in which this fictional version of Garrison Keillor’s smug, self-satisfied, US radio staple is supposedly recorded. There is the death of Tommy Lee-Jones’s axeman, as facilitated by a very jobsworth white macced Virgina Madsen. Who plays the actual Angel of Death, who haunts the film. And there is of course the death of Robert Altman himself, director of the film.

But there is also the death of over half the jokes in the film. A knowledge that your jokes are lame does not rescue them from falling flat. And thus the film existing as some sort of resurrection for Lily Tomlin’s film career suggests there was also a death. Kevin Kline fares even worse, his knowing private eye is constructed to be micro-dimensional, but nevertheless it is a character out of a half dreamed thirties movie: long since dead. But then that is the case with nearly all of this film, raking over the ashes of entertainment radio, of doing the show right here musicals, of genres which may have gone before their time but have certainly gone. Even Lindsay Lohan’s wriggly performance as Meryl Streep’s daughter suggests both a death of credibility and a death of Lohan’s own teen ingenue career. And so this is a deathly film, which is saturated with the idea of endings, death and a gentle wake for all that has passed.

All of which would have been apt if Bibbie Altman wasn’t halfway through making another film.

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