Alan Rudolph (USA, 1943), formerly Robert Altman's assistant director,
had already debuted
with the horror movies Premonition (1972) and
Nightmare Circus (1974),
but launched his career in earnest with the existential dramas
Welcome to L.A. (1976), an ensemble film a` la Nashville set among the decadent urban bourgeoisie of Los Angeles, and
Remember My Name (1978).
After the musical Roadie (1980) and the fantapolitical movie
Endangered Species (1982),
Songwriter (1984), which is basically a biopic of country music's legend Willie Nelson,
Rudolph penned two of his best films:
Choose Me (1984) and
Trouble in Mind (1985).
After the lightweight
Made in Heaven (1987), Rudolph directed
The Moderns (1988), a tribute to the Bohemian art milieu of 1920s Paris,
and the noir films
Love at Large (1990) and
Mortal Thoughts (1991).
Equinox (1992) is a vaguely David Lynch-ian psycho-thriller
that centers on a set of quirky, offbeat characters.
The story is set in a very quiet and depressing metropolis, Empire, whose
architecture we only see a fragment at a time.
A black woman who works at the morgue finds a letter on the corpse of an old
woman (she died clutching it).
The same character plays two men, who have very different lives.
One is a quiet, shy, nerdy, lonely man who spends most of his evenings
watching videos of self-defense techniques. He dials a number but can't
say a word. It is the number of am equally lonely young woman who spends most
of her time reading poetry and is courted by an aggressive neighbor.
The black woman reads the letter that she found with morbid curiosity.
Two small-time crooks drive to a restaurant and meet a prospective partner in crime.
One is Freddy, a violent psycho who beats his buddy in the street.
He is married with a sexy woman, Sharon.
Henry receives the visits of a neighbor who is a prostitute and has a baby,
Rosie. Rosie leaves him the child to take care of while she performs her duties
and Henry can't say no.
Henry works in his father's mechanic shop.
As the story progresses, it is obvious that the twins are polar opposites.
Henry tries again to call the young, modest, romantic woman, Beverly, but, again,
can't speak a word. She cries and dances alone in her apartment (in vain
invited to go out by the nosy neighbor).
Instead, Henry receives another visit from Rosie, who gives him a blow job
as a reward for watching her baby.
This time, though, her pimp shows up. His brutal manners trigger Henry's
violent reaction: he finally applies his self-defense videos and sends the
brute rolling down the stairs.
Rosie, scared, runs away.
The black woman, Sonya, is an aspiring writer.
Intrigued by the content of the letter,
she decides to write a story about it: it's the story of two twins who were
separated at birth and of a trust fund set up by a Swiss count in
their name. The letter contains the password ("equinox") that gives access
to the money. The black woman does not want to steal the money: she wants to
write a great story. She visits the wealthy and important man who set up the
trust. They revisit together the story of the ballerina, who had an affair with
the count, and then was forced into giving the children up for adoption.
Sonya is curious about what happened to the twins. The wealthy man is interested
in the money, that (thirty years later) is now worth a fortune.
Beverly and Henry have dinner together in a fancy restaurant: they know each
other because her brother, Russell, is Henry's best friend.
Russell is, in turn, obsessed with the daughter of the restaurant's owner,
whom he barely knows.
Freddy's buddy sees them from the window and starts screaming at Henry,
thinking he is Freddy.
Freddy is reading a story to his children in his classy apartment.
Henry takes Beverly home and, surprisingly, is all over her. She, who was
dying for him move, pushes him back. Beverly is a very insecure person, who
just can't make decisions. She talks about herself in third person.
Freddy waits at the exit of a club and shoots his former buddy dead.
When he goes back home, Henry sees the ambulance and the police who are taking
away Rosie's body. She has been killed.
Freddy's criminal boss asks him for a hit job.
Sonya continues her research and finds the adoption papers.
Henry, still shaking, begs Beverly to go away with him to the Grand Canyon.
Sonya is sitting in the same restaurant where Russell tries to convince
Henry of helping him defend the girl from some gangsters who are
after her father.
Sonya visits Henry's father, who basically tells her that Henry has no clue
of being an adopted child. In the meantime, Henry is kissing Beverly, spied
by her neighbor. He invites them to leave that very night.
The moment he leaves she starts packing a bag.
Henry joins Russell at the usual restaurant.
Freddy enters the same restaurant and walks to the back, where he confronts
the owner: it turns out he is the one in charge of killing the girl's father.
His partner takes the girl in the big room, where Russell attacks him.
Henry uses again his lessons of self-defense techniques to hit the gangster.
The girl finds a gun and shoots. The gangster is down. Freddy walks out to
see what happens... and for a few seconds the twins see each other. The girl
keeps shooting and Freddy collapses, mortally wounded. Henry stares at his
dying face and feels the same pain.
Henry runs to his father's shop and takes all the money. He drives to Beverly's
building and begs her to leave with her, but she, as usual, can't make up her
mind. Henry leaves and she cries.
Sonya tracks down Beverly and tells her the story of the twins.
Alone, Beverly picks up the phone, even if it didn't ring.
Henry drives all the way to the Grand Canyon, and then
stands alone on the brink of the precipice.
Mrs Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994) is a biopic.
Afterglow (1997) is yet another moody piece immersed in a bluesy
The story of the two frustrated and neurotic women is only a pretext.
The story is too elaborate and dense to be a graceful comedy a` la Lubitsch
but that's the genre it aims for.
Jeffrey is a young successful business man who, after paying a compliment to his
cold middle-aged asexual
assistant, takes a walk outside the window and balances himself on one
foot at the edge of the skyscraper.
A young, attractive woman, Marianne, buys expensive lingerie.
Lucky is a plumber who is fixing the kitchen sink for a lonely lady and
does not hesitate when she offers him her body.
Phyllis is his frustrated housewife, who is waiting for him while watching an
Marianne welcomes his husband Jeffrey in sexy underwear (they live in a
luxury apartment), but
Jeffrey is absolutely frigid and is annoyed by her desire for sex, affection
Lucky shows up at Marianne's to fix a problem, while Phyllis' goes see her
doctor who doesn't find anything wrong with her health.
Marianne interrogates Lucky about his married life. He tells her that Phyllis
used to be an actress and they also don't have children.
Phyllis runs after a woman whom she calls Cassie but who doesn't seem to
recognize her. Cassie walks away and Phyllis starts crying.
Marianne wants to prepare a baby room, but Jeffrey is against having kids.
Marianne is disgusted by his selfishness and threatens to have a baby with
someone else. Jeffrey simply tells her that he doesn't care and walks out.
Marianne is still crying when Lucky knocks at the door.
The movies that Phyllis watches alone at home are the movies in which she
starred. Her only other activity seems to look at the pictures of a girl.
In the meantime, Marianne is determined to get pregnant and seduces
Lucky, who was just dreaming of it.
Phyllis spies on them in a bar.
Lucky and Marianne leave the bar just when Jeffrey walks into the same hotel
to check in (he has left Marianne).
Jeffrey approaches the lonely Phyllis and eventually invites her
to go away with him for the weekend. She is too lonely and desperate to say
no when she kisses her. Phyllis goes back home and confronts Lucky, but
doesn't get any satisfaction. The following morning Phyllis decides to meet
Jeffrey at the hotel and they take off together.
Over dinner with Jeffrey, a business partner of Jeffrey and his wife,
Phyllis recalls how, when Lucky was in the navy, she had a daughter from another
actor and how Cassie, the daughter, ran away when she found out the truth.
Phyllis and Lucky tried in vain to find her. Back in her room,
Jeffrey and Phyllis are rolling on the floor when they are interrupted by
the business friend who is also coming to seduce her. Phyllis turns him down
but Jeffrey has lost the momentum and nothing happens. The following morning
they drive back.
Marianne is frantically rearranging the apartment.
Both couples walk into the same bar. Jeffrey hauls himself at Lucky. The
waiters throw Lucky out. Phyllis and Marianne decide to take a taxi together
and go to Marianne's apartment. Lucky and Jeffrey follow them in their cars.
Marianne tells Phyllis, whom she believes to be Jeffrey's lover, that she is
pregnant of Lucky, without knowing that Phyllis is Lucky's wife.
The moment they arrive at the apartment, Jeffrey and Lucky fight again.
Phyllis just leaves, followed in vain by Lucky. Jeffrey is suddenly aroused
and takes his wife like an animal. But then he regrets it and leaves too.
Jeffrey and Marianne separate. Marianne pretends with a friend that her baby
is Jeffrey's. Jeffrey balances himself on the ledge of a
bridge and falls, breaking his leg.
Lucky finds Cassie in the same spot where Phyllis saw her.
At home, Lucky finds Phyllis hysterical.
Breakfast of Champions (1999), an adaptation of Vonnegut's novel,
Investigating Sex (2001),
based on Jose Pierre's book "Recherches sur la sexualite archives du surealisme",
The Secret Lives of Dentists (2002), based on Jane Smiley's novella "The Age of Grief".
Ray Meets Helen (2017) was
his first film in 15 years.