We're all connected: Matt Dillon

Question: I recently saw and loved the movie Crash, and was especially intrigued by the way all the stories intersected and converged. Could you possibly give me a list of some other films whose stories are structured in the same way?

Answer: I certainly can: First, for the benefit of readers who haven't seen Crash (2005), its structure is one in which multiple narratives are developed simultaneously and overlay or intersect at key points before converging at the end. Unlike ensemble movies in which there's a main plot and a series of subplots, films like this give more or less equal weight to all the story strands and derive a significant part of their thematic power from the apparently random way in which different characters' destinies come together. To my mind, the greatest of all multiple-story narratives is Robert Altman's Nashville (1975), which refracts a devastating portrait of American self-delusion through the prism of the country-music industry. The individual stories are gripping, the cast — a who's who of '70s actors that includes Keith Carradine, Karen Black, Ronee Blakely, Henry Gibson, Barbara Harris, Shelley Duvall, Scott Glenn, Jeff Goldblum, Geraldine Chaplin, Ned Beatty, Tony Roberts, Keenan Wynn, Barbara Baxley and Michael Murphy — is uniformly great, and the climax, which takes place at a benefit concert for independent presidential candidate Hal Phillip Walker, is really shattering. Altman made several other films using this format, but only Short Cuts (1993) comes close to Nashville. Heights (2005), 2 Days in the Valley (1996), P.T. Anderson's Magnolia (1999), Jill and Karen Sprecher's Thirteen Conversations About One Thing (2002) and Lawrence Kasdan's Grand Canyon (1991) all use the same structure; I think Magnolia and Thirteen Conversations are top-notch, and 2 Days in the Valley is entertaining in a cheerfully sleazy way. Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction (1994), Doug Liman's Go (1999) and Mike Figgis' Time Code (2000) all use the intersecting-stories format, but these films mess with chronology as well. Pulp Fiction fractures the stories' chronology, Go doubles back on itself and Time Code uses four-way split screen to tell the same set of stories from four different points of view. That should keep you busy for a while.