Few filmmakers short of Luis Buñuel have made better onscreen use of dreams than Robert Altman, and 3 Women is the film in which he most successfully (and disturbingly) captured the hazy logic and off-kilter visual perspectives of the unconscious state. Shelley Duvall delivered the best work of her career as a woman so shallow that it never occurs to her that people are laughing at her behind her back, and Sissy Spacek is brilliant as Pinky, the naive girl who worships her; their emotional give and take as they begin to exchange personalities exemplifies the kind of risky but satisfying performances that Altman knows how to draw from actors. Gerald Busby’s quietly troubling, discordant score and Bodhi Wind’s surreal artwork are singularly appropriate aural and visual backdrops, while Charles Rosher Jr.’s cinematography layers the images in intoxicating washes of yellow and blue. While Altman has made a career out of endings that don’t spell themselves out, the conclusion of 3 Women is both vague and provocative — have we witnessed the aftermath of a tragedy, a descent into insanity, or a quiet but defiant call to arms? Altman isn’t telling, but one can read 3 Women in a number of ways and still walk away convinced that it’s a work of singular vision and emotional power from one of the most gifted American filmmakers of his generation.