A frozen wasteland is the scene of an unusual game of life or death where the victims fight to remain alive.
Quintet is a 1979 post-apocalyptic science fiction film directed by Robert Altman. It stars Paul Newman, Brigitte Fossey, Bibi Andersson, Fernando Rey, Vittorio Gassman and Nina Van Pallandt.
During a future ice age, dying humanity occupies its remaining time by playing a board game called Quintet. For one small group, this obsession is not enough. They play the game with living pieces, and only the winner survives.
The story takes place during a new ice age. The camera tracks a blank, frozen, seemingly deserted tundra until two blurry, distant figures can just be made out. They are the seal hunter Essex (Paul Newman) and his pregnant companion, Vivia (Brigitte Fossey), the daughter of one of Essexs late hunting partners. They are traveling north, where Essex hopes to reunite with his brother, Francha (Thomas Hill).
Essex and Vivia eventually find Franchas apartment, but the reunion is short-lived. While Essex is out buying firewood, a gambler named Redstone (Craig Richard Nelson) throws a bomb into Franchas apartment, killing everyone inside, including Vivia. Essex sees Redstone fleeing the scene and chases him to the sectors "Information Room." Essex witnesses the murder of Redstone by a Latin gambler named St. Christopher (Vittorio Gassman). When St. Christopher leaves, Essex searches Redstones pockets and finds a piece of paper with a list of names: Francha, Redstone, Goldstar, Deuca, St. Christopher, and Ambrosia.
Puzzled by the mystery, Essex discovers that Redstone had previously checked into the Hotel Electra, a gambling resort in another sector. He visits the hotel and assumes Redstones identity. Immediately after checking in, Essex is given an unexpected welcome by Grigor (Fernando Rey), who is the dealer in the casino. Insisting that he means no harm, Grigor invites Essex (as "Redstone") to the casino, where gamblers are now heavily involved in a "Quintet" tournament (rules available here). While there he meets Ambrosia (Bibi Andersson), who always plays the "sixth man" in the game.
Essex is unaware that the current Quintet tournament is a fight for the survival of the fittest. Those who are "killed" in game are executed in real life. Grigor and St. Christopher are aware that Essex is not the real Redstone, so they ignore him and focus on the other players. Goldstar (David Langton) is the first killed, followed by Deuca (Nina Van Pallandt), until the only two players left are St. Christopher and Ambrosia. Ambrosia, however, insists that Essex be counted as a player in the game since he has assumed Redstones identity. Grigor agrees and informs St. Christopher that he has to eliminate Essex before he can face off against Ambrosia.
Essex and St. Christopher have a showdown outside the city, where St. Christopher is killed in an avalanche. Essex returns to Franchas apartment and finds the same list that Redstone had. Ambrosia follows Essex to the apartment. Essex slits her throat just before she is about to stab him with a hidden knife.
Returning to the Hotel Electra to cremate Ambrosias body, Essex confronts Grigor to demand his "prize," since he was the winner of Quintet. Grigor reveals that the only prize is the thrill of the game itself. Grigor insists he stay and participate in future tournaments, but a disgusted Essex condemns Quintet and leaves the hotel for good. The film ends with Essex taking a long walk out into the barren distance.Paul Newman as Essex
Vittorio Gassman as Saint Christopher
Fernando Rey as Grigor
Bibi Andersson as Ambrosia
Brigitte Fossey as Vivia, Essexs Wife
Nina Van Pallandt as Deuca
David Langton as Goldstar
Thomas Hill as Francha
Monique Mercure as Redstones Mate
Craig Richard Nelson as Redstone
Maruska Stankova as Jaspera
Anne Gerety as Aeon
Michel Maillot as Obelus
Max Fleck as Wood Supplier
Francoise Berd as Charity house woman
Robert Altman came up with the original idea but said he wanted Walter Hill to write and direct the film.
Quintet was filmed on the site of Montreals Expo 67 worlds fair. Also, the soundtrack was recorded by the New York Philharmonic.
Upon release, the film was not a critical or commercial success, with many reviewers criticizing the films slow pace, writing and somber nature. The film holds a rotten rating of 13% on review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes.