Robert Altman’s only foray into the realm of science fiction came with Quintet in 1979. That decade had seen the rise of the blockbuster sci-fi film with Star Wars (1977) and Superman (1978), as well as sci-fi/horror mixes such as Alien (1979) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978). Quintet is a futuristic story in which inhabitants of a future post-apocalyptic ice age, including Essex (Paul Newman) and Vivia (Brigitte Fossey), spend their time playing a board game called “Quintet” involving living human pieces.
While Altman’s take on science fiction was not a success at the box office or with the critics in 1979, the film has often been noted for its strikingly futuristic and beautiful settings, and oddly medieval costumes. Almost the entire film was shot on location at the abandoned and decaying site that had been built for Expo 67 (the 1967 International and Universal Exposition) in Montreal, Quebec.
This large original painting by Canadian artist Michel Pellus (1945- ) is included in the Altman Archive. Robert Altman commissioned Pellus, then in his 20s, to create the painting as a possible promotional item, but it was never used. Measuring about 3 by 4 feet, it portrays players of the game in front of the pentagon-shaped board with the two lead characters, Essex and Vivia, behind.