A catastrophic earthquake in Budapest hath no fury like a woman scorned in Los Angeles. Or maybe -- who knows? -- it's the other way around. You'll have to ask writer/director Alan Rudolph, whose eccentric 1978 movie, "Remember My Name," tries like all get-out to establish some relationship between the two, and succeeds, in this and other matters, at just being plain annoying. Now in re-release, it opens today at the Key.
Rudolph, a prote'ge' of Robert Altman (who produced this film), shares Altman's self-consciously fractured world view, which apparently allowed him to cast the drearily gaunt, British-accented Geraldine Chaplin as a hard-bitten ex-con and the austere Anthony Perkins as the blue-collar man who done her wrong.
Chaplin plays Emily, a creepy sad sack just out of prison who hits town in a battered Japanese compact car on a mission of vengeance. With much ado about cigarettes and dark glasses -- overused here to comic effect -- Emily installs herself in a dingy flat, gets herself a cashier's job at a five-and-dime, and begins stalking Neil (Perkins, the spookiest looking construction worker you've ever seen) and his wife Barbara (a tirelessly vacant Berry Berenson, also Perkins' offscreen mate ).
As we learn far too late in the proceedings for it to be of much interest, Neil is Emily's ex-husband who abandoned her after she went to jail for jealously killing his mistress -- and who could blame him? When not beating up on her coworkers or stabbing an overly ardent suitor with a pencil, Emily flaunts all of her charms to attract Neil's attention.
She starts by harassing his new wife Barbara with furtive phone calls, graduates to bricks through windows, eventually haunts his construction site, where she rams his pickup truck, and finally, after plying Neil with enough booze to bring down an elephant, takes him to bed for an incredible night of passion. She calls him by the cute nickname "spider monkey" -- which seems horribly apt, although this particular love scene conjures up spiders instead.
Rudolph takes his sweet time unreeling this lame tale, allowing for gratuitous repetition (nudgingly suggestive shots of Emily and handcuffs and iron bars), incongruous insertion (the late Alberta Hunter singing blues in the background) and mysterious digression (the news from Budapest blares from every TV set, lending the film -- which also features the Dubrovnik Restaurant -- a definite Eastern Bloc tilt).
It would take an unusually forgiving spirit to indulge such directorial antics. Even Tak Fujimoto's cinematography, swimming in portentous chiaroscuro, is insistently arty. And despite some deft turns from Jeff Goldblum as a squirrely store owner and Ina Gould as a dotty old customer, "Remember My Name" might just be a movie to forget. Remember My Name , opening today at the Key, is rated R and contains violence, profanity and sexual situations.