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  • There is no other film that deals so confrontingly with homophobia - and with honesty.

    It's a deliberately pressured and closed set, but careful editing softens the effect of the confined space. As in Hitchcock's "Rope", the camera never leaves the room, so the viewer feels caged, while the characters can come and go.

    The setting is an army barracks in which the men will at any moment be sent overseas for active war duty. The characters have no choice but to negotiate how much they want to know or to accept about eachother.

    Long before "don't ask - don't tell" became official US Forces policy, society in general had enforced rigid control over how open any homosexual could be - and Service Personnel have always held the worst reputation for homophobia.

    So when Richie flaunts his complete disregard for machismo and swishes around the barracks, he's making one hell of bold statement. He teases Billy mercilessly with come ons, and Billy does his best to call Richie's bluff.

    "Streamers" is about the truly dramatic consequences of censored communication. It's a gripping, demanding, powerful and very satisfying film that leaves your head spinning and your heart racing.

    You practically need a de-briefing session afterwards, but "Streamers" is certainly one of the most memorable of dramatic movie experiences - on par with "A Clockwork Orange".

    The performance by the entire cast is impeccable.
  • Following on the heels of "Come Back to the Five & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean", Altman brings another play to the screen. Like the earlier movie, this is an intensely serious drama about issues of sexuality and denial. Like the earlier movie, parts of it are extremely strident and/or "stagy", and like the earlier movie, much of it is redeemed by the excellent performances.

    Although set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, the film is mostly about what goes on inside the heads of a small group of soldiers who are waiting to get shipped out. Much of the story's development is psychological, and not related to the specific period in history... if anything, the characters occasionally seem "too modern", but it's impossible for me to say whether this is actually the case (perhaps done intentionally by the director and screenwriter) or whether my impression of how they "should" have been behaving in the mid-1960s is colored too much by mass-media images from that time.

    In any case, Altman and screenwriter David Rabe do a good job of confounding the audience's expectations and providing us with multi-faceted, complex characters, and there are some moments of chilling beauty, as when two older sergeants tell stories of paratroopers who didn't make it. While the issues involved and the serious tone will probably turn a lot of people off, this is a "worthy" member of the Altman canon, and well worth seeking out by anyone who is interested in his "filmed plays" of the 80s or in seeing him work on a small scale.
  • I was excited to see that this film was released on DVD, only to be disappointed when I discovered that it's not available anywhere in the U.S.

    My comment on "Streamers" will have to be based on one viewing a few years ago as part of a Robert Altman seminar I took in college. It's a screen adaptation of a David Rabe play, and I look at it as a male counterpart to his virtually all-female stage to screen film from the year before, "Come Back to the 5 and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean."

    In "Streamers," a group of Army recruits sit out a long dark weekend in their barracks, awaiting orders to ship off to Vietnam. It's dark, morbid and tense and covers such hot-button issues as racism and homophobia. I recall it all being a bit heavy-handed and one-note; I was mostly exhausted after it was over, and didn't think it was as skillfully directed as "Come Back to the 5 and Dime," which also suffered from hyperbolic material but which Altman worked wonders with.

    "Streamers" does boast some pretty solid performances from a young Matthew Modine (who Altman would use again in "Short Cuts") and David Allan Grier, a far cry from the comic work he would do years later in shows like "In Living Color." If I ever have a chance to see it again, I might revise my opinion. But for now,

    Grade: B-
  • Every crisis is a fight's form. And the crisis is the only way to know that you are alive. "Streamers" is tale about Vietnam, self discover, fear and sentiments. About trust and friendship. About intolerance's power. And about the resistance in face of same other reality. The homoerotic aspect is only an ingredient in this great expectation and heavy uncertainty. Four boys and a war. And the struggle to adjust the news rules at the familiar past. The threat is not the war or the death. Not the superiors or the others soldiers. The threat is only your person. Each gesture, each emotion, each word may change not an opinion, a nuance in the attitude/words of the other, the self respect or the values of your life but your soul. The world is your desire's projection. And if this these is fallacious? A movie about a interior world- gift and cross.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I went to Viet Nam in 1971 as a replacement. I spent time in just such a scenario and except for the gay issue which would not have been discussed so openly, it was very realistic in it's description of the emotional interaction of the soldiers.

    I felt they put more focus on the gay issue than needed. there should have been more focus on the war and how they expected to react in it. I don't think we know what their occupational specialties are but these soldiers are not all green trainees. a couple have been in a while and have rank and qualifications as Specialist 4.

    It is a great character study in any case.
  • Four young soldiers waiting to be shipped to Viet Nam deal with racial tension and their own intolerance when one soldier (Mitchell Lichtenstein) reveals he is gay.

    The film debut of David Alan Grier, who has become a bit of a comedy mainstay. Robert Altman, how do you find and cast such talented young actors?

    Vincent Canby wrote that the film "goes partway toward realizing the full effect of a stage play as a film, then botches the job by the overabundant use of film techniques, which dismember what should be an ensemble performance." Canby's issue is that the use of close-ups take away the feeling of watching the full performance, where even the non-speaking actors are in view of the audience.

    While Canby may be coming down a bit harsh (do movie viewers want the theater experience?), it is worth noting that Altman followed up this film with "Secret Honor", which very much focuses on the actor. In fact, there is not much else to focus on, making it one of the most sparse films ever made.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Jesus H Christ. You know what I'm doing? You know what I'm standing here doing? I'm a 24 year old college graduate. God damn intellectual type. And I got a knife in my hand, thinking about coming up behind one black human being, and I'm thinking, I wanna cut his throat! That is ridiculous, man! You think I need a reputation as a killer? You want to be a bad ass animal, go! Get it on! But I wash my hands, man! I'm not human as you are!" – Mathew Modine (Streamers)

    Like "Secret Honor", "Come Back To The Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean" and "Fool For Love", "Streamers" is another Robert Altman film based on a stage play and filmed almost entirely indoors at a single location.

    The film focuses on a group of US soldiers who are waiting to be shipped out to Vietnam. Altman's camera prowls their cramped barracks, watching as they struggle to pass the time. They argue, joke and throw insults, but the script is flat and the cast only comes alive, spectacularly so, during a couple explosive scenes.

    What's most interesting about the film is Mathew Modine's character. Modine plays Billy, a smart kid who sees himself as existing "outside" of the other men. While the other soldiers are black, homosexuals or come from low income families, Billy is middle class and well educated.

    Toward the end of the film, Billy is killed by one character who despises Billy's aloofness. Billy can't stand the other men, their latent homosexuality, their poverty, their drunkenness, the way they readily give in to desire, and so essentially seems to have been killed because his very existence shames the other men.

    So Mathew Modine essentially plays the same character here that he plays in "Full Metal Jacket"; the outsider on the inside, though in Kubrick's film he further protects himself with a "jacket" of ironic detachment. That film was about a very specific type of disassociation; killing but not perceiving oneself as partaking. Murdering, but interpreting such actions as righteous kills.

    Though Kubrick scoured thousands of audition tapes when casting "Full Metal Jacket", Modine was the one actor he had mentally cast prior to conducting auditions. Kubrick was a big Altman fan and kept a close eye on the director's work. He cast Shelly Duvall in "The Shining" based on her performance in Altman's "3 Women" and is reported to have admired "McCabe and Mrs Miller". Both directors actually bumped into one another outside a theatre in England, Altman having just watched "Clockwork Orange" and Kubrick having just seen "McCabe and Mrs Miller".

    A decade later Kubrick saw Modine in "Streamers" and immediately began enquiries about the actor. He learnt that Modine was currently working on Alan Parker's underrated "Birdy", another film in which Modine played a Vietnam soldier. Kubrick secretly sent Alan Parker a request asking for footage of Modine and received it several weeks later. Upon seeing the footage, Kubrick was convinced that he had found the right "Jokerman" for his "Full Metal Jacket".

    What's interesting about Kubrick's casting methods is the way he, in a sense, casts archetypes (or rather, type cast actors). Jack Nicholson was cast in "The Shining" because his previous films had established him as a misogynist and psychopath. Modine was cast in "Full Metal Jacket" because he had established himself as a military outsider and intellectual jar-head. Tom Cruise was cast in "Eyes Wide Shut" because he had established himself as a egotistical, self centred little man, brainwashed by cults.

    There's a practicality, a sense of machine logic, to the way Kubrick casts. Real couples play real couples. A real Jack and Danny play a real Jack and Danny. A real drill Sergeant plays a real drill Sergeant. Likewise, a Jewish film director famous for conspiracy thrillers (Sydney Pollack) plays a mysterious puppet master. And on and on it goes.

    "Streamers" may not be a dramatically satisfying piece of work, but it is interesting in the way it positions itself within all the Vietnam movies of the 70s and 80s. For example, unlike the ultra macho Rambo, Altman treats his entire cast with a weird, sexual ambiguity. We get the sense that this small group of men has been assigned their own private barracks because they're all homosexuals or outcasts in some way.

    There are also strange parallels with "Full Metal Jacket". Consider the way one homosexual in Altman's film tries to commit suicide, feeling too effeminate, too much of an outcast for the military. Kubrick's film does the opposite, a character called Pyle committing suicide as a result of sexual over-identification. One's too much of a wimp for the military, the other's too much of a killer.

    In Altman's film, Billy also reluctantly visits a whorehouse. He has sex with a woman in order to prove that he "fits in" and is "one of the boys". This mirrors Joker's actions in "Full Metal Jacket", where Joker shoots and "rapes" a woman in order to "fit in". The irony of Altman's film is that Billy is trying to "fit in" with guys who are themselves repressing their homosexuality in the face of the military's grotesque hyper-masculinity; fitting in with those trying to fit in, all identity a performance, a sham. And of course this "masculinity" is often always a mask, the "soldier persona" a thin veneer over fragile personalities, wounded egos and personal neuroses. It's the lesson Billy learns by the film's end, as his veins empty blood.

    6/10 - Cut 40 minutes from this film and you have a lean drama, with a couple explosive scenes. As it is, this is a dull stage play which only comes alive when Mathew Modine is on screen. Altman's camera work is ugly, his set is drab, his pacing awful and his caricaturing of homosexuals at times insulting.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    In this film Altman is considering the Vietnam war but from the point of view of the young men who are drafted into that butchery without even having the slightest choice at their disposal. The war, the heroic war is supposed to bring the best of man in the limelight of their personalities. It sure brings the deepest layers of all human beings in the foreground. So imagine a bunch of macho young men, black and white, plus a few older Non Commissioned Officers who are having no real private life because they spend their life killing enemies they despise. Who would marry these men who are never home and who spend their time shoulder deep in blood? Their complicity becomes complacent and we can wonder what makes them go on behaving like bad boys who only want to play hide and go seek. The draftees are not better but they are younger so they don't know about bees and flowers and birds and flying fish. And their sexuality is both in great conformity with the standard public norm and absolutely uncertain and fuzzy. Bring one real gay man in that bunch and what was only vaguely misty in the background becomes sunny bright in the foreground. The college graduate who was cool about it turns aggressive and even violent. Unluckily a black hustler is a lot better trained at self defending himself. The young college graduate will die in his own running blood. One of the older NCOs will come along and, as drunk as a barrel of gin, he will run into the situation and against the hustler who will puncture him good and well, once and for all. It is then the survivors finally understand what they are in for. The gay young man will start crying – a cliché mind you – and the others will hide or try to ignore the mess. The only interesting element in this film is the acting of the bunch of actors who are holding the screen and the audience for nearly two hours. They act so well, so much like on an intimate theater stage, that we totally enter the game and believe it. Apart from that the male psychology is explored in details but it is not what it really is or the film has tremendously aged.

    Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris Dauphine, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne & University Versailles Saint Quentin en Yvelines
  • I agree with some other reviewers that the huge flaw in this movie is the script. Maybe in live theatre this dialog is compelling, but on screen it is just bombastic. The highly formal and eloquent prose is beautiful writing, but it keeps the characters from coming alive. Nobody anywhere talks like these characters.

    This could have been a powerful movie about important issues that I happen to care about a lot; it comes across instead as an acting exercise, in which very talented actors carefully read expertly crafted lines. The direction is great, as it is in every Altman movie, but I wish he had not stayed so close to the play. He usually trusted his actors more than the scripts, and not doing so in this movie was a mistake.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Four young trainee soldiers who are about to be sent overseas to fight in the Vietnam war are forced to deal with their own individual prejudices and different backgrounds after they start to suspect that one of them is gay.

    Director Robert Altman relates the gripping story at a measured pace and expertly generates plenty of claustrophobic tension by keeping all the action inside of an oppressive army barracks. David Rabe's bitterly confrontational script addresses troubling issues pertaining to race, war, mortality, sexuality, and how both society and the military alike pit people against each other in an edgy and provocative manner. Moreover, it's exceptionally well acted by the four leads: Matthew Modine as sensitive intellectual Billy, David Alan Grier as the happy-go-lucky Roger, Mitchell Lichtenstein as the effeminate Richie, and Michael Wright as angry and antagonistic unhinged psycho Carlyle. Guy Boyd and George Dzundza provide darkly amusing comic relief as a pair of drunken and sadistic duty sergeants. An extremely potent and unsettling film.
  • Perhaps it shows my ignorance but I like movies that tell a story with some kind of point and a credible story line. This picture had several great ideas but they were so poorly strung together that the movie did nothing but get more and more annoying. The characters were unbelievable, their actions made no sense and they reacted in bizarre ways. Some examples... Two drunken sergeants playing hide and seek in the rain, a soldier claiming to be queer and the other soldiers not believing him, one soldier stabbed by another and the onlookers too busy talking to get help for an exceedingly long time.

    I would most definately not recommend this film. Except to film makers as an example of how NOT to tell a story.
  • Mitch-3821 January 2002
    Lengthy, lethargic and lackluster Altman lecture that might have played better in 1968, instead of 1983. Today, it seems positively prehistoric. The dialogue is relentlessly moribund and depressing, as recruits "chat" throughout the film. I'm sure Robert Altman was aiming for a claustrophobic feel to STREAMERS; but it never escapes the viewer that they're watching a closed set play, instead of a movie. By the way, is there anyone left on the planet that doesn't know people die in war, and they should be avoided??? Much like this movie. Not recommended
  • As has been already said in so many words, this movie is a bit "stagey," with Altman sticking so close to the play instead of taking advantage of the movie aspect. Perhaps as a result, this might have been great to watch on stage, but it took forever to watch on TV. And it is very dated, with lots of racial and sexual orientation slurs. The acting was very good but again hampered by strictly following a script for a play. The setting in the barracks becomes tedious before the halfway mark, and the relatively few actors or especially extras in the background make it look too minimal. Historically, this is probably worth watching, but it is a bit tough to get through.
  • I am a former usmc recon special forces sgt. The marine corp drill team are great but the army drill team in the movie are fantastic. The best you'll ever see. They are the best in the world and show a splendid disply here. I salute them.
  • I first saw this film when I was 15, and was pretty wowed by it, especially it's high level use of the F word. Just recently watching it again, there wasn't that much bad language. Later discovering this was a Robert Altman film, this didn't surprise me, as he did another set piece one, continual scene film, 'Come Back To The Five And Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean' at the same time. There is actually a preview of the latter on this film, if you have a VHS copy, which I luckily do. Streamers works mainly cause of the powerful performances, notably Michael Wright, what you may call a deserter, off his nut, who crashes a dorm of Vets, still waiting on their orders to fight that notorious and unforgotten war. He's so powerfully unsettling, because you don't what he'' do next. It's like watching a bi polar patient. The other notable performance is that of Guy Boyd, a great underused actor, as a gung ho sergeant, who sadly, you don't see much of him in this, either. Modine is very strong too as Wright's rival, while Mitchell Lichstein is unforgettably great as the gay homo cadet, who brings so much to the role, an array of emotions. What happened to him? Streamers is basically a character driven, one scene movie, where the tenseness and anxiousness shows in these pre Vet soldiers, one young kid, slashing his wrists at the start, to get a pardon, with one of the creepiest faces I've ever seen. If part of this character, I give the actor full credit. David Allen Grier, a good underrated actor plays another black GI, and Wright's friend. The atmosphere of these actors, doing their thing in a confined set is electric, even the smaller performances as we near it's end, after a double tragedy were great. The films not for everyone, as there are some confronting issues, in what in a pull no punches tale of innocence lost, and tempers flaring of a bunch of apprehensive soldiers, waiting to partake in that ugly war. The highpoint is watching a drunk Guy Boyd (and he's like this for all his scenes) singing instead of Beautiful Dreamer, Beautiful Streamers. George Dzunda, delivers too, especially near the end as Boyd's compadre. The marching gun display in perfect cadence at the start and end credits in frighteningly unsurpassable. Engaging viewing, where if not for the actors, this dorm would coming down.
  • thesar-25 February 2011
    Warning: Spoilers
    Showerin': Get used to this one. The pre-'Nam cadets in Streamers seem to like showering a lot. Especially mid-conversations. Now, you don't see too much, if that's why you're watching this, you perv, but it might have some special meaning that I didn't catch.

    Suspectin': Picture it, 1983 is when the film came out, but it was based during the Vietnam War. We have a FLAMING homosexual that even the similar time framed The Boys in the Band would reject and all the other characters do for an ungodly amount of time is to question if he's gay or not. Fine. Perhaps eyes weren't wide open as they are today…but do you need to wear a pink triangle on your sleeve to drive the effeminate flirting – with the same sex – home?

    Smokin': Duh. It's a war-themed movie. Duh. It's about Vietnam. That was almost a prerequisite for making a 'Nam picture: actors must smoke. If they don't in their everyday life, they'll need to start the habit for realism.

    Swearin': See above.

    Sexuality: Though the movie, directed by Robert Altman, screams the director's other movie: M*A*S*H, I was thoroughly impressed he took this former play and brought the seldom spoken topic of homosexuals in the military. Kinda. But, still, people were pretty backwards in the early 1980s and I was happy to see someone taking a stand against homophobia, long before it became the norm.

    Suicidin': These things happen. And I'm sure they happen more when someone's being forced into a seemingly unending conflict – er, war.

    Stereotypin': Not as bad as the previously mentioned Boys in the Band reference, but still. The movie's not all about crushing homophobic idiocies, it's also about the different sides of racism. In fact, the movie's pretty evenly split between the two "lessons." That all said, both the black men and the (potentially ONE) gay person were so obvious to us, if they were men of the cloth, they would've most certainly be wearing a clerical collar, no matter the religion.

    Switchbladin': This fits in with the one above. Of course, every tough black male carries one of these and swishes it proudly. No, I don't believe that, but pre-smart Hollywood would love you to identify the black male as the tough knife-wielding dude.

    Stagin': This movie SCREAMS theater. As already mentioned, this was a play-turned-film. It wasn't the first to make the transition, and it most certainly wasn't the last. It was, however, TOO MUCH OF A PLAY. Every actor shouted, even when unnecessary, as if they were on a stage without mics. This went hand-in-hand with the constant overacting. I can tolerate some of that, but gimme a break; it's nearly two hours of it.

    Stabbin': I should add another 'S' here for SPOILER (alert.) Don't read on, if you haven't already decided the movie's just not worth it. Nutzo character (heck, at least I wouldn't reveal who) stabs and stabs. Could be for toughness, but more likely just a mental breakdown. UH…they haven't even made it to the "conflict of 'Nam" that would most certainly damage them ten times more so than the murders he commits. On a side note, as I am sure, Director Altman had some credit to his name, but the "CSI" scenes following the murders were not only hilarious but were written and filmed pretty amateurish. I'm sure even as "prehistoric" as 1983 was, they still had better methods of collecting evidence than picking up the weapon with bare hands, or tracking the blood across the room, or moving the body, or the worst: simply stating within seconds: "Yep, they're dead, let's get 'em outta here." Really?
  • Kirpianuscus29 March 2017
    the honesty is the basic virtue of a film who is a precise image about army, homophobia and war. a form of manifesto. but more subtle and unmerciful and giving the no doubt message in the right terms. a film about masks and vulnerability. about prejudices and about silent. in fact, a film about freedom. simple, direct and out of excuses. and this did it special. because it propose a uncompromising view about a situation who is far to be a secret. because it did not verdicts. only a coherent picture of an institution, about fears of few young men and the dialogue who becomes a large corridor. and the acting is real inspired.
  • georgeuriah21 November 2014
    The producer/writer/director who thought that a two-hour movie of relentless talk between gay soldiers (or crypto-gay)confined in the barracks is entertaining must have been out of his mind. I failed to understand the purpose of this film or the motivations of the principal characters, in order to sympathize with them. Somewhere between the lines there must be a message about tolerance and indiscrimination but it never comes through. Instead we are forced to watch 3-4 people beating around the bush in the same room, without any coherence or plot. The climax (when it finally comes) appears completely unnatural and unjustified, making me feel that the makers of this film were desperately trying to find a spectacular ending. Probably this script could have worked better as a theatrical play (although I still have doubts). Avoid to watch, absolutely worthless and outdated.