Robert Altman former A.D. Alan Rudolph, who especially in the 80s made several subtle, tonally unpredictable, genre-hopping movies with large casts, is the worth subject of Stuck on the Second Tier: Underknown Auteurs
this month at 92YTribeca; tomorrow night they'll screen Remember My Name
and Trouble in Mind
. Trouble in Mind
, from 1985, is Rudolph's Alphaville
, inflected by a couple different New Waves, but still a vintage genre projected forward into a future assembled piecemeal from stray corners of the present. Seattle’s docks, warehouses, galleries and revolving restaurants play the neo-noirchetypal “Rain City,” with added out-of-time flourishes like a constant streetside military re, and a prewar San Francisco-style Asian influx; there's also the greasy spoon where Genevieve Bujold oversees a love triangle between ex-cop ex-con and freelance guardian angel Kris Kristofferson (in black fedorda), hick-kid-going-down-the-wrong-path Keith Carradine (whose precipitous moral decline can be tracked by the ascent of his Adam Ant pompadour), and blonde madonna Lori Singer.
The characters speak in artful banalities and aphorisms that can’t be taken at face value, fatally confused
by the archetypes they think they’re supposed to embody, and the tone slipsides with them: Rudolph finds so many cockeyed approaches to genre, not just knowing movie-brat slapstick routines (the climactic shootout is giddy in its arbitrariness) but also nuanced, surprising, well-acted studies of the real relationships within classical-Hollywood gender politics, and sincere pastiche. And he deposits unresolved bits of atmosphere—a fence wearing facepaint, a car filled with water—all along the perimeter, next to all the running gags (the diner door opens into the restaurant, not the street...). Plus orutund, specific supporting turns from Joe Morton as a drily live-wire hood; Divine (in a suit) as a decadent mobster; and, best of all, TV vet John Considine, supremely unctuous and hifalutin as a wealthy bystander. Marianne Faithfull sings the title standard, her marvelously weathered voice over piano, sax and synths that've all but evaporated.