"REMEMBER BY NAME" seems oddly blank except for its torchy blues score, which is as rich and full as the characters are hollow inside.
Geraldine Chaplin, Tony Perkins and Perkins' wife, Barbara Berenson, are the anorexic leads, stringbean people with rundown, shopping-center dreams. They're kept going by motivations that make people thin inside, by vengeance, treachery and fear.
Chaplin, an ex-convict obsessed with her ex- husband, is still a prisoner of love. And if you stretch that to apply to womankind, you've got the gist of "Remember My Name," a neurotic film noir that didn't catch on when it was first released in 1978. It is a gripping tale of sexual frustration, a slightly more positive "Dance With a Stranger."
Chaplin is spooky, spookier even than Perkins, in this complex performance as a woman who's painfully adjusting to freedom. She moves into an apartment house that looks like a cell block; dreams of clanging jail doors closing; and enters into a servile relationship with the building superintendent, a part-time security guard.
Her base established, she begins to avenge herself against her faithless husband who has a new life and a new wife far from the scene of the crime. Perkins and Berenson are a dull, distracted duo as the harried pair. But Chaplin more than makes up for them by stalking about the screen, playing scary pranks on the other woman and, finally, ruthlessly freeing herself by destroying her ex-husband's life.
The story moves on tiptoes, like a stranger sneaking past a sleeping baby's crib. Alan Rudolph writes and directs that way, putting the story together warily. His unsettling films don't win acceptance often or easily. This one works best when seen as the second in a trilogy that includes his first film, "Welcome to L.A.," and 1983's dramatic comedy "Choose Me."
Rudolph's mentor, Robert Altman, produces, with Alfre Woodward, Jeff Goldblum and Moses Gunn in excellent supporting roles. The music mixes ambient, suburban sounds with expository vocals by blues great Alberta Hunter at 83. Still it's as quiet as the inside of the heroine's cold, vengeful mind.