POO: Altman films

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secret honour is his best, then the long goodbye

mark s (mark s), Wednesday, 30 April 2003 17:58 (seventeen years ago) link

In the middle of the night, on Bravo, I caught Come Back to the Five and Dime Jimmy Dean with Kathy Bates and Cher. Filmed after the failure of Popeye, during Altman's time of insisting to only adapt plays for the screen, it seems like an obvious play adaptaion save for some bizarre visual flourishes. The flashbacks are introduced strangely. I don't know if it was good movie, some of the dramatic moments felt totally fake ass but it was hypnotically watchable.

theodore fogelsanger, Wednesday, 30 April 2003 22:45 (seventeen years ago) link

i like A wedding. i haven't seen it in maybe 15 years though. Carol Burnett...

gaz (gaz), Wednesday, 30 April 2003 22:48 (seventeen years ago) link

I can't say yet cuz I haven't seen Nashville. Gotta see Nashville.

Anthony Miccio (Anthony Miccio), Thursday, 1 May 2003 00:56 (seventeen years ago) link

Popeye is an illuminating watch though. Especially up against Dick Tracy and Scooby Doo.

Pete (Pete), Thursday, 1 May 2003 09:54 (seventeen years ago) link

I saw both The Player and Short Cuts when I was 14, and was immediately ready to crown Altman my favorite director. But apart from Nashville and Gosford Park (and Popeye when I was a kid), I haven't actually seen anything else, oddly enough. Anyway, I'll take Short Cuts as my OPO -- it got me into Carver, too.

jaymc (jaymc), Thursday, 1 May 2003 21:33 (seventeen years ago) link

I don't understand Anthony's comment at all. Because you haven't seen Nashville, you can't decide which of the Altman films you have seen, is your favorite?

amateurist (amateurist), Thursday, 1 May 2003 21:46 (seventeen years ago) link

I think he wants to reserve judgement on account of all the acclaim awarded Nashville. Dude wants to make an informed decision.
Yes, I'm drunk.

slutsky (slutsky), Thursday, 1 May 2003 23:02 (seventeen years ago) link

Slutsky you sound like an autodidact putting on airs in a blaxploitation movie.

amateurist (amateurist), Friday, 2 May 2003 02:19 (seventeen years ago) link

that made me laugh out loud, and I'm no longer even drunk!

slutsky (slutsky), Friday, 2 May 2003 02:20 (seventeen years ago) link

it's also the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me

slutsky (slutsky), Friday, 2 May 2003 02:38 (seventeen years ago) link

nashville is a film that i would say i recognize as "great", but i have really no desire to ever see it again. too long and too much music. plus i think altman did a lot of the same disconnected narrative/character studies in california split.

j fail (cenotaph), Friday, 2 May 2003 14:08 (seventeen years ago) link

i forgot popeye: it's no.3

(nashville can fuck off, it's like some indie guy "sees through" chart music)

mark s (mark s), Friday, 2 May 2003 19:54 (seventeen years ago) link

I respectfully disagree, mark s. "Nashville" isn't even about music, it's about politics and fake populism and so forth. As such, it nails that fucking town, hard. People there hate the movie because it lays it all out--music there is a backdrop for everything else, just like in the movie.

At one time I would've picked "Nashville" as the best, and it's genius film, but these days I think I like "The Long Goodbye" best. But it's a small difference between those two. "Thieves Like Us" and "MASH" come in close after those two.

I haven't seen all his films, but I like most of them I have seen. I even liked "Dr. T." There is something very, very stoned and somewhat OFF about Altman even at his best, though--I can't quite put my finger on it. But he respects so many other things that most directors don't even notice/consider, so it evens out.

A lot of people would rank "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" up there--I need to see this one again, it's been a while.

His comeback movies--"Short Cuts" and "The Player" are both fine, I think.

Jess Hill (jesshill), Wednesday, 7 May 2003 15:24 (seventeen years ago) link

There's one shot in The Long Goodbye--where the Russian (?) girl is waiting outside in the car for her gangster boyfriend, and as she reaches up from the back seat to turn up the radio, the camera gently tracks with her. There's something slyly humorous about that moment, where Altman is teasingly highlighting that ridiculous motif of hearing "The Long Goodbye" performed by 1,000 different singers, in the middle of one of the tensest moments in the film. I like stuff like that.

amateurist (amateurist), Wednesday, 7 May 2003 15:28 (seventeen years ago) link

i need to sit down some day and have a "Lesser Films of Robert Altman" film festival. we'll watch Beyond Therapy and Cookie's Fortune.

j fail (cenotaph), Wednesday, 7 May 2003 15:41 (seventeen years ago) link

I found nothing "indie" in the least about Nashville -- the whole thing felt somewhat respectful, awed, honest. Of course we know its artifice -- and we love it anyway!

something like that, and I even saw it at the peak of my populist jihad.

Sterling Clover (s_clover), Wednesday, 7 May 2003 20:54 (seventeen years ago) link

The only person that "Nashville" respects is the character played by Barbara Harris--maybe the Tomlin character as well...but yes, I think it's an honest movie, honest in its contempt for the whole apparatus of "Nashville." Which is as it should be.

Jess Hill (jesshill), Friday, 9 May 2003 16:05 (seventeen years ago) link


PVC (peeveecee), Friday, 9 May 2003 20:07 (seventeen years ago) link

Long Goodbye would make a good double feature with Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia.... or maybe it'd be a bit much.

PVC (peeveecee), Friday, 9 May 2003 20:09 (seventeen years ago) link

QUINTET is far from unwatchable. I watched every frame and loved the better portion of them.

But since this is "pick only one," I'll throw my support out for 3 Women, which I've heard is finally coming to video (in the form of a DVD with muthafucking commentary by Altman).

Eric H. (Eric H.), Saturday, 17 May 2003 05:31 (seventeen years ago) link

Oh good, I've been waiting a while to see that movie.

slutsky (slutsky), Saturday, 17 May 2003 16:19 (seventeen years ago) link

Yeah. It's pretty amazing, though I can see some of the Altman fans in the MASH and Player school being indifferent-cum-hostile towards it.

Here's to hoping the disc release isn't held up (he's confirmed that he's actually recorded the commentary so it shouldn't be too much longer).

Eric H. (Eric H.), Saturday, 17 May 2003 17:59 (seventeen years ago) link

goddam it - i just ordered a bootleg vhs copy of three women based solely on what i've read in this thread. and now i find that the dvd is coming out.... great.

j fail (cenotaph), Monday, 19 May 2003 15:04 (seventeen years ago) link

j fail -- that's happened to me more than once.

PVC (peeveecee), Tuesday, 20 May 2003 06:15 (seventeen years ago) link

seven months pass...
Revive, 'cause I'm interested to know what people think of Brewster McCloud, which I just rented.

Chuck Tatum (Chuck Tatum), Tuesday, 30 December 2003 21:04 (sixteen years ago) link

California Split

@d@ml (nordicskilla), Tuesday, 30 December 2003 21:27 (sixteen years ago) link

OK. Criterion's seriously pissing me off for still not having released the DVD they're working on for 3 Women. Everyone blimmin' knows it's Criterion that's putting the disc out and what they're waiting on is beyond me. I've been waiting for over a year and a half to see it a second time and they can kiss my ass.

Brewster McCloud... I had to struggle to get through this one. I guess it sort of taught me what it feels like for other people who did the same with Popeye, Quintet, Images and Buffalo Bill and the Indians... all of which plenty have likened to having teeth pulled even though I found all four to be (if not in the same league as 3 Women, Goodbye or Nashville, still very much) worth investing serious time.

Eric H. (Eric H.), Wednesday, 31 December 2003 07:06 (sixteen years ago) link

Brewster McCloud really fucked me up the first time I saw it. I was depressed for like 4 days afterward. I recently picked up the video and watched it a second time and it didn't hit me the same. It's flawed, but it's got a lot of cool stuff in it, with good turns by Rene Auberjonois, Sally Kellerman (I'm probably in the minority that prefers her work here to her role in MASH), and Shelley Duvall in her first role ever. And the credit sequences are genius too.

BTW, there's a good book about Brewster floating around that was published in 1971. It was consists of three parts: A day-by-day account of the shooting, a transcript of the film itself, and the original script by Doran William Cannon, which is very, very different from the finished product (for example: it was set in NYC instead of Houston, there was no detective subplot etc.)

Charles McCain (Charles McCain), Wednesday, 31 December 2003 18:10 (sixteen years ago) link

D'oh. I forgot about the credits and Margaret Hamilton. That is pretty essential. Brewster McCloud in NY instead of Houston would've been so much worse. Jeez, now I'm defending the thing, which suggests I should watch it again.

Eric H. (Eric H.), Wednesday, 31 December 2003 20:42 (sixteen years ago) link

two weeks pass...
3 Women is awesome. I taped it off Bravo almost 20 years ago, and watched it over and over, but unfortunately lost it a couple years ago. I cannot wait for the Criterion DVD. BUT! Just a couple days ago I got off eBay a complete, mint condition set of lobby cards for the film! I was the only bidder! Actually, what I ended up getting wasn't lobby cards, but stills. But so what, it's still cool. Shelley Duvall won the NY Critics Circle award for best actress here, and really deserved it - and her role was mostly improvised! What a great character she created. I saw The Long Goodbye maybe in '85 in a revival theater in CT, and was *the only person in the theater*. Overall I'd probably pick Nashville, because of the sheer number of great, quirky performances.

Sean (Sean), Monday, 19 January 2004 20:53 (sixteen years ago) link



Eric H. (Eric H.), Friday, 30 January 2004 20:54 (sixteen years ago) link

April, supposedly.

Eric H. (Eric H.), Friday, 30 January 2004 20:54 (sixteen years ago) link


Eric you have just made my weekend! Thank you!

BabyBuddha (BabyBuddha), Friday, 30 January 2004 21:00 (sixteen years ago) link


jaymc (jaymc), Friday, 30 January 2004 21:20 (sixteen years ago) link


Sean (Sean), Friday, 30 January 2004 22:04 (sixteen years ago) link

two weeks pass...
come on back to the five and dime, jimmy dean, jimmy dean. i saw this on late nite channel 31, the same place i first experienced helter skelter and teen witch. awesome.

esther (esther), Friday, 13 February 2004 23:57 (sixteen years ago) link

two weeks pass...
Arrr... I gotta read that Brewster McCloud book because after watching it again over the weekend I've got even more questions and not a lot of answers or even reference points to go with. Previously I just sorta soaked in the whole abstract surreality of it, but now I demand something concrete to chaw on for awhile.

I'm surprised that it was originally set in NYC, because Houston is the logical place for it. 1970 Houston is the home of NASA ("Space City" as the radio identifies at the beginning) - the maximization of the technological and bureaucratic form of flying that Brewster rejects.

The detective is a total transparent riff on Bullitt down to the name (Frank Shaft vs. Frank Bullitt), their home (San Francisco), their clothes, Steve McQueen's detached-acting, heck even the cars in the car chase (Shaft drives a Camaro - equivalent to Bullitt's Mustang. Brewster is in a Plymouth Road Runner - equivalent to the Dodge Charger in Bullitt. I've always found it hilarious that Altman has the detective off himself at the end of the chase rather than accept defeat.

In the end though, the Establishment wins - kinda like the ending of Vanishing Point but Brewster's end isn't transformative as Kowalski's.

It's also entirely possible that Altman and co. were just smoking a lot of weed and making stuff up on MGM's dime.

Elvis Telecom (Chris Barrus), Monday, 1 March 2004 20:35 (sixteen years ago) link

i have to say that nashville is my favorite. it is just so masterfully done. the long goodbye is number 2.

todd swiss (eliti), Tuesday, 2 March 2004 06:54 (sixteen years ago) link

five months pass...
ARRRGHHHH. Is thing on?

Brewster McCloud??

I just saw it for the first time. I'm baffled. I honestly HATED it for the first 3/4, kinda got more into it once the Brewster/Shelley Duval thing heated up. though the prolonged car chase was execrable, but maybe that was a relatively "new" device then?? Fuck if I know. I'm glad it ended so weirdly, though, that was kind of reassuring, somehow.

I don't normally have a problem with more abstruse films, but this one, honestly, just seemed bad. Real bad. Except for Shelley Duvall. Holy mackerel.

Monetizing Eyeballs (diamond), Thursday, 12 August 2004 04:19 (fifteen years ago) link

Brewster McCloud... I had to struggle to get through this one. I guess it sort of taught me what it feels like for other people who did the same with...

Actually, this comment from Eric H is interesting; that's precisely the thought process I had watching this thing. Like: now I know what it must feel like on those occasions when I drag some of my friends who aren't big cinephiles along to a more unconventional film. I think the fact that this film induced an uncomfortable feeling is probably a good thing, but I need to tease it out some more..

Monetizing Eyeballs (diamond), Thursday, 12 August 2004 04:26 (fifteen years ago) link

No you don't. I've seen it now either four or five times, and all of them I wish I had back. And for the record:

McCabe and Mrs. Miller WINS ALL!

and Short Cuts, Nashville come in close behind.

x j e r e m y (x Jeremy), Thursday, 12 August 2004 15:23 (fifteen years ago) link

The Player - This is one of my favourite films and my favourite Tim Robbins performance but I haven't seen much else by him despite best intentions. Very poor video shops around here.

holojames (holojames), Friday, 13 August 2004 11:20 (fifteen years ago) link

There is a copy of the Signet "Brewster McCloud" book on EBay right now.


I reccomend it to anybody interested in the film. It's also quite rare. (BTW, I'm not the merchant)

Doobie Keebler (Charles McCain), Saturday, 14 August 2004 16:13 (fifteen years ago) link

Tough call. The Long Goodbye, I think. Nashville a close second. After that, McCabe and Mrs. Miller. Thieves Like Us. I actually always liked Three Women. Brewster McCloud is interesting. The Player and Gosford Park are nice. Very, very weird and inconsistent filmmaker.

eddie hurt (ddduncan), Sunday, 15 August 2004 15:41 (fifteen years ago) link

six months pass...
going thru a big Altman phase at the moment. I've always enjoyed his stuff, and his hit-or-miss quality only makes him that much more loveable in my eyes (cf. Neil Young). After learning about him in college (Player, Short Cuts, Pret a Porter) and following him since, in the last couple weeks I've been diggin into the older stuff and I've been really blown away... here's what I've seen so far, recommend what I should see next:

M*A*S*H* (I thought these were both okay, w/Nashville having the higher high points, but neither prepared me for the unbelievable greatness of...)
McCabe and Mrs. Miller
The Long Goodbye

I've seen almost all his post-Player stuff. So I'm trying to fill in the blanks in the 70s and 80s. Particularly curious about Brewster McCloud, the Buffalo Bill movie, the Nixon movie, and 3 Women.

Shakey Mo Collier, Wednesday, 23 February 2005 22:56 (fifteen years ago) link

california split is great fun and very sad on a level.

t0dd swiss, Thursday, 24 February 2005 01:26 (fifteen years ago) link

one month passes...
okay, so this month got through "Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean" and "3 Women". "3 Women" was far and away the more absorbing of the two, really great to see such a wonderful copy on the Criterion DVD, and definitely took several left turns I was not expecting that took the "identity-swapping" trope into territory I really enjoyed, particularly the dream-montage with all the multi-layered, watery imagery. Really beautiful... "Five and Dime" was assuredly a lesser, more predictable affair. Sorry to say I quickly tired of the cramped staging and saw through the plot-arc instantly. As enjoyable as the "tranny" Karen Black was there just wasn't enough movement driving the film for me... all the characters were enjoyable, but they had nowhere to go. I'm dreading the other Altman "play" movies if this is representative...

next on the plate are probably Brewster McCloud and Thieves Like Us, tho the wife anxiously wants to see Pret-a-Porter, which I do not have fond memories of...

Shakey Mo Collier, Friday, 22 April 2005 22:26 (fifteen years ago) link

oh yes - also saw California Split. Loved it, great little character study/buddy movie. I never knew I could actually enjoy Elliot Gould.

Shakey Mo Collier, Friday, 22 April 2005 22:33 (fifteen years ago) link

How about Altman POX? Or POIX, cuz I can only name 9 I really, really like?

1. Nashville (1975)
2. The Long Goodbye (1973)
3. Short Cuts (1993)
4. McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971)
5. MASH (1970)
6. Buffalo Bill and the Indians (1976)
7. Tanner '88 (1988)
8. Gosford Park (2001)
9. The Player (1992)

Frankly, the top 4 are all even in my book.

Remy (x Jeremy), Saturday, 23 April 2005 05:58 (fifteen years ago) link

Thank you, this thread, for reminding me that I still need to watch the lo-res video file of HealtH that I pilfered from god knows where (since it's apparently the only Altman film that's never going to receive an official home video release ever).

Here Comes The Brain Event (Old Lunch), Wednesday, 28 February 2018 20:18 (two years ago) link

I saw California Split for the first time only recently and it's top tier. Would be on my shortlist.

circa1916, Wednesday, 28 February 2018 20:20 (two years ago) link

There's an Altman Coffee table book that normally sells for like 40 bucks but is now 9 dollars in a few places. Ordered a copy on Amazon just the other day.


circa1916, Wednesday, 28 February 2018 20:24 (two years ago) link

It's pretty cool. I've read several Altman biogs so not a lot of new info but definitely a lot of production photos and ephemera I've never seen before.

Here Comes The Brain Event (Old Lunch), Wednesday, 28 February 2018 20:27 (two years ago) link

Looking at my Letterboxd ratings from the MoMA retro, I really don't like the minor ones I caught up with there, all 2.5/5:

Health (liked it more when I was younger)
That Cold Day in the Park
Countdown (the hire job w/ Caan and Duvall playing astronauts)

I preferred Kansas City (3/5)

ice cream social justice (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 28 February 2018 20:28 (two years ago) link

Oh, I recently recalled in the midst of the post-Weinstein era that the recent-ish Altman oral history ended on a somewhat sad note as everyone talks around the story of Kevin Spacey ruining what turned out to be Altman's last directorial gig at the Old Vic. I knew he was a bad egg.

Here Comes The Brain Event (Old Lunch), Wednesday, 28 February 2018 20:34 (two years ago) link

Oh yes and I've never seen Jazz '34, which I see is available online.

Moo Vaughn, Wednesday, 28 February 2018 20:36 (two years ago) link

Also on the Kansas City DVD, iirc.

Here Comes The Brain Event (Old Lunch), Wednesday, 28 February 2018 20:45 (two years ago) link

You are wrong about McCabe, flappy, but it's not uncommon for ppl to not really gel with it on first encounter and fall in love with it later. Was my experience and apparently Tarantino's as well.

― circa1916, Wednesday, February 28, 2018 3:02 PM (three hours ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

yeah I've only seen it once and will definitely revisit soon

flappy bird, Thursday, 1 March 2018 00:04 (two years ago) link

Altman's (better) films almost require multiple viewings. There's often so much going on in the frame and on the soundtrack that it's impossible to take it all in on a single viewing. I think I catch new dialogue every time I see the tavern scenes in McCabe.

Here Comes The Brain Event (Old Lunch), Thursday, 1 March 2018 00:16 (two years ago) link

McCabe demands multiple viewings, yes. My only reaction upon seeing it in high school was "huh?" Now I could be easily convinced that it is his best.

Dangleballs and the Ballerina (cryptosicko), Thursday, 1 March 2018 01:19 (two years ago) link

I had a similar reaction to 3 Women at first blush. It grows in my esteem with every rewatch.

Here Comes The Brain Event (Old Lunch), Thursday, 1 March 2018 03:32 (two years ago) link

I loved 3 Women on my first viewing, but I can probably credit that to my having already seen both Persona and Mulholland Dr.

Dangleballs and the Ballerina (cryptosicko), Thursday, 1 March 2018 03:55 (two years ago) link

oooh true

flappy bird, Thursday, 1 March 2018 04:08 (two years ago) link

That says a lot for 3 Women, which I saw when it first came out, and remains the clearest and most compelling--scenes still still roll in memory with no known cue, the swimming pool murals appeared as I was waking up a couple mornings ago---- more recently, "Wellll, you two have a lot in common." "Lak whut?" "Oh, I don't know! Aren't you both from Texas or something?" kept coming up while I was trying to wait patiently for the doctor.

(I'd like to see Buffalo Bill especially). He's never struck me as having anything particularly trenchant to say about any sort of social or historical concern, and seems more interesting as a weaver of tall tales with sometimes-interesting character portraits. He seems most interesting, however, as an at least semifictional observer and to some extent participant in what he really knows - the popular or semi popular performing arts world he inhabits -
Which is why you might like Buffalo Bill, on a night when he's ramblin' around, gassin' about previous events and what he made of them, with the travelling Wild West Shows, Indian actors/re-enactors and all---Lester Bangs connected this to Dylan's theatrical self-presentation in his '74 reunion tour with The Band: a battered Americana legend-merchant in "full scraggle" (the raspy rattle of "It's Alright Ma" on that year's live Before The Flood is a good example).

dow, Sunday, 4 March 2018 17:10 (two years ago) link

That is, Bangs specifically cited this movie as a thematic link to Dylan's self-presentation, whether D. was thinking of or had seen this movie or not.

dow, Sunday, 4 March 2018 17:32 (two years ago) link

one month passes...

Watched OC & Stiggs again this weekend and yah I still think it's aged well and gets a bad rep. It's really fun seeing the Altman-isms translated for an 80s teen comedy. I don't get the hate for this.

kurt schwitterz, Monday, 23 April 2018 22:23 (two years ago) link

FYI..."Images" is free to watch if you have Amazon Prime: https://www.amazon.com/gp/video/detail/B07578H9YR/
Susannah York is very good in it, and the score works well (never would have guessed John Williams and avant-garde Japanese percussionist Stomu Yamashta would team up), but its variations on a theme get a little tiresome (ok, she's schizophrenic, this isn't real, I get it). Cathryn Harrison, who was the lead in Malle's "Black Moon," is also in it. Altman fans should check it out, but don't expect a masterpiece.

ernestp, Sunday, 29 April 2018 19:34 (two years ago) link

nine months pass...

1. California Split
2. Nashville
3. The Long Goodbye
4. Brewster McCloud
5. 3 Women
6. The Player
7. Short Cuts
8. A Wedding
9. McCabe & Mrs. Miller
10. Secret Honor

not my thing: Thieves Like Us
Dud: Images, Buffalo Bill, MASH

haven't seen the rest
but I have Kansas City and Streamers waiting

flappy bird, Sunday, 10 February 2019 08:12 (one year ago) link

McCabe below Short Cuts and A Wedding is completely looney tunes but at least you're in the ballpark. I wouldn't put California Split first but I def rate it higher than most.

Musts to see if you haven't yet: Gosford Park, The Company, Tanner '88 (probably in my top five Altman projects)

Shaved Cyborg (Old Lunch), Sunday, 10 February 2019 14:48 (one year ago) link

Thieves Like Us might be as high as #3 for me

never liked Brewster

a Mets fan who gave up on everything in the mid '80s (Dr Morbius), Sunday, 10 February 2019 14:52 (one year ago) link

Also Vincent & Theo and Prairie Home Companion were quite good iirc but it's been a while since I saw either.

Shaved Cyborg (Old Lunch), Sunday, 10 February 2019 14:54 (one year ago) link

01. Nashville
02. 3 Women
03. Short Cuts
04. McCabe & Mrs. Miller
05. The Company
06. The Long Goodbye

Those six are his undying masterpieces. The rest is a great jumble of movies I like a great deal more than most (Popeye) and a great deal less than most (California Split).

zama roma ding dong (Eric H.), Sunday, 10 February 2019 18:48 (one year ago) link

1. The Long Goodbye
2. McCabe and Mrs. Miller
3. Thieves Like Us
4. The Player
5. 3 Women
6. Nashville
7. Vincent and Theo
8. Gosford Park
9. Secret Honor
10. The Company

Your sweetie-pie-coo-coo I love ya (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 10 February 2019 18:50 (one year ago) link

1. California Split
2. The Long Goodbye
3. McCabe & Mrs Miller
4. Nashville
5. Brewster McCloud
6. Short Cuts
7. The Player
8. Gosford Park

I havent seen 3 Women, Thieves Like Us (well ive seen bits of it), A Wedding, The Company, Tanner '88

. (Michael B), Tuesday, 12 February 2019 11:45 (one year ago) link

Cannot believe the disrespect being shown to O.C. & Stiggs itt rn.

Shaved Cyborg (Old Lunch), Tuesday, 12 February 2019 12:48 (one year ago) link

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