Some say the world will end in fire;
Some say in ice.
—- Robert Frost

Ok, I’m going to write about a movie you will never see. I can’t really call it a review – the movie sucks so much and in such an interesting and ambitious way that it isn’t really reviewable. I knew it sucked – had known it sucked for decades. That doesn’t mean I didn’t want to see it. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy watching it (Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t).

I’m not sure why I even bothered to watch it. Or why I even bother that it exists. I could write about a fictional movie. You’re not going to see this one anyway – so who cares if it actually exists. If nobody except me sees a movie-does it even exist?

This movie that you aren’t going to see is called Quintet and it stars Paul Newman and is directed by Robert Altman. When I think of science fiction dystopian film making… I always think of Robert Altman. It was made in 1979 – a year after I graduated for the last time.


A scene near the begining of Quintet. Don't think I blurred the edges of the frame for artistic effect - I didn't. The whole movie looks like that. They must have used a gallon of vaseline on the lenses.

Back then I used to love to read the movie reviews in Time magazine. I think I enjoyed reading the reviews more than seeing the movies. Remember, this was long before the Internet – information was scant then. You tended to believe what you read.

Now we know better.

So I read the reviews of Quintet. It was a big deal – Paul Newman, Robert Altman, all-star international cast. With all this going for it, with all this at stake, it couldn’t suck. But it did. They didn’t really come out and say that – but we all knew how to read between the lines.

I bought my first television cable in about 1980. That was when HBO was still called Home Box Office. Quintet was on, but I only saw a few minutes of it. It actually looked like something I might enjoy – odd, eccentric, but entertaining in a quirky sort of way.

I was wrong.

Now, all these decades later, we have Netflix – and I’m able to watch this old chestnut in the privacy of my own laptop.

1979 were pre-global warming days – when it was assumed the world would end in ice, not fire. In the film, ice has taken over and the world is about to freeze solid. Everyone has given up and is waiting around to die. Paul Newman arrives from the wilderness – the prototypical outsider of the dystopian tradition – with a young pregnant wife. This should be a big deal – but nobody cares about anything. They go on playing this game, Quintet, and the losers get slaughtered and literally fed to the dogs.

ext for the image, e.g. “The Mona Lisa”

"The earth is the cradle of the mind, but one cannot live in the cradle forever." What the hell does that mean? I suspect very little.

The only interesting character is killed off thirty minutes in.

The move has a languid pace and an interesting frozen broken down look – but in the end, nobody gives a damn about anybody.

So why should we?

Another scene from Quintet

Paul Newman and Fernando Rey enjoying a hearty drink together. At least the beer is cold.