Altman had his first breakthrough hit with M.A.S.H. (1970) and followed it up with McCabe and Mrs Miller (1971). The success of these gave Altman the clout to indulge in some way out cinematic experiments the most notable of these being Brewster McCloud (1971) and Images. Here the influence of the French Nouvelle Vague and in particular the time flipping and identity-swapping puzzles of Last Year in Marienbad (1961) is clearly evident Images is sort of, if one can imagine, Last Year in Marienbad by way of Repulsion (1965). Altman does indulge in some of the irritable experimentalism that we were made to suffer in early 70s New Wave filmmaking jarring surrealistic and temporal incongruities, abstract out-of-focus photography and an unorthodox atonal percussive soundtrack. Nevertheless, Altmans games and the films surrealism attain an inner logic that exerts a weird fascination.
The identity flips and strange synchronicity games that play throughout the film are highly intriguing somebody asleep in a chair or undressing will become person another seconds later; Susannah York hits Marcel Bozuffi and he bleeds, seconds later Rene Auberjonois returns from a hunting accident and spills blood in exactly the same spot; York makes love but is unsure to which man and the next day all three men compliment her on how fantastic it was; she stabs Hugh Millais, yet when she returns home Millais is alive but then when she returns to the house there are two bodies there. Equally intriguingly, all the characters in the film are given one of the other actors Christian names, and in the end credits In Search of Unicorns, the book that Susannah Yorks character narrates from throughout, is credited as being by Susannah York.
Robert Altman is clearly fascinated by these identity puzzles he returned to them in the much more obtuse 3 Women (1977), while successive films such as Quintet (1979) and The Player (1992) show a preoccupation with the crossover of reality and fiction. Images is not always an easy film but it is ultimately a rewarding one. The photography set against the barren wide-open Irish countryside is very beautiful.
Robert Altmans other films of genre interest are: Countdown (1968) about a Moon landing mission; the completely gonzo Brewster McCloud (1971) about a young man who is invoked to build a set of wings by an angel; 3 Women (1977), a cryptic film about identity blurring; Quintet (1979), an enigmatic film set in a frozen future; Popeye (1980), a live-action adaptation of the famous comic-strip; and A Prairie Home Companion (2006), an ensemble film based on the famous radio show, which features a visiting angel of death.