Writer-director Alan Rudolph made a couple of minor horror movies before becoming an assistant to Robert Altman, who produced Rudolph’s first personal feature, Welcome to L.A. In 1977, viewers must have thought they were watching an Altman film: multiple plotlines with criss-crossing characters of questionable behavior, observed with a roving camera that sometimes dollies in on a face, and held together by musical interludes—in this case, songs performed by Richard Baskin in studio sessions. It’s even got several Altman actors: Keith Carradine, Sally Kellerman, Sissy Spacek. Rudolph is clearly influenced by his mentor, but just as clearly Rudolph claims his territory: lonely souls searching restlessly for love or a reasonable facsimile.
Whoever was in charge of writing the package’s description for this made-on-demand disc from MGM Limited Editions came up with “A self-important group of eccentrics from Los Angeles realize how worthless their lives are.” Not quite. Set in L.A.‘s music world, especially the business end of it, it features Carradine as a restless, emotionally disengaged songwriter whose cycle is being recorded by Baskin, who overproduces the material and doesn’t really like it. (The irony is that Baskin wrote the songs in real life, and it really does sound better when Carradine sings them.) Within moments of his arrival in L.A. for Christmas, Carradine’s character gets busy with most of the women in the cast, except the one with whom he already has a history (Viveca Lindfors as his aging agent) and his wacky maid-cum-prostitute (Spacek) who wears slacks that match the groovy wallpaper.
Also present are Lauren Hutton as an arty photographer, Denver Pyle as Carradine’s rich pappy, Harvey Keitel as an ambitious exec, Geraldine Chaplin as his unhappy wife with a Garbo obsession, and John Considine as Kellerman’s cheating husband. Chaplin’s character is the most neurotic and probably the best. She certainly makes an impression, not only with a surprising scene near the end but by frequently speaking to the camera. Most of the other characters look into the camera at some point, but she is by far the most brazen.
// Notes from the Road
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