Sunday, September 04, 2022

Alan Rudolph’s Remember My Name

Stalkers aren't just for the rich and famous, like in Play Misty for Me or The Bodyguard. In this case a recently paroled woman is stalking working-class Neil and Barbara Curry. It certainly isn’t for their money. It is personal. Yet, the real tragedy is that the original score, composed and performed by blues and jazz singer Alberta Hunter is not more widely available. The cast is pretty notable too in director-screenwriter Alan Rudolph’s 1978 drama Remember My Name, which screens at the Roxy Cinema this week.

Emily is fresh out of prison and looking to cause trouble in general, but particularly for Barbara Curry. It starts with some vandalism, but escalates rapidly. She also lurks outside her husband’s construction site, but his response is a little different. In fact, when confronted by his wife, Curry sounds rather evasive and even a bit ashamed. Definitely something transpired between them, which will somewhat shift audience sympathies as Rudolph teases it out.

Meanwhile, the television news keeps telling its viewers they should care more about an earthquake that rocked Budapest, as Hunter’s bluesy tunes (recorded in a special session produced by John Hammond) swing the soundtrack. It is perhaps fitting that Robert Altman produced
Remember My Name, because Rudolph’s approach is often quite Altman-esque. That is another reason why it is so odd this film is so rarely programmed.

It is a bit ironic to see Anthony Perkins cast as a married construction worker, but he perfectly expresses Curry’s guilty squirreliness. As usual, he definitely projects a sense something is not entirely right with him, albeit not to the degree of his iconic roles. He happened to be playing opposite his real-life wife Berry Berenson, who was murdered on September 11
th, aboard American Airline Flight 11. She really is terrific as Barbara, so it is odd she only had a handful of further roles.

On the other hand,
Remember My Name is fully stocked with supporting players who would later make names for themselves, including Jeff Goldblum and Alfre Woodard, as Emily’s boss and work-rival at the Woolworth-like retailer. Plus, Tim Thomerson (“Jack Deth”) briefly appears as Neil Curry’s co-worker.

Nevertheless, if this film were better remembered, Emily would probably be known as the role of Geraldine Chaplin’s career. You can definitely see how she might have influenced Glenn Close in
Fatal Attraction or Jennifer Jason Leigh in Single White Female. Yet, Chaplin brings a vulnerability to her character that sets Emily apart from just about every other movie-stalker.

Of course, for those of us with good taste in music, the biggest star of
Remember is Hunter’s music. Thematically, her songs are totally the blues, but they are all arranged in a swinging up-tempo jazz style, recorded with legendary jazz musicians, like Doc Cheatham on trumpet, Vic Dickenson on trombone, Budd Johnson on tenor, and Connie Kay on drums.

Despite the hand-clapping energy of her tunes, they aptly fit the dramatic events they underscore, especially the opening “Remember My Name” and the closing “You Reap Just What You Sow.” If anything, the lyrics of “Workin’ Man (I Got Myself aWorkin’ Man)” sound even more resonant today when she sings: “I don’t want a hipster lover, they’ve got larceny in their eyes, got a handful of gimme and a mouth full of ‘much obliged.’” Oh, that’s good.

The film itself is pretty good too. Frankly, given the caliber of people involved, it is a mystery how it could fall so far by the wayside. It really should get a full re-release treatment, because it is an important film for the legacies of Hunter and Chaplin. Enthusiastically recommended for the soundtrack and respectfully recommended for the drama,
Remember My Name screens Wednesday (9/7), Thursday (9/8), Saturday (9/10), and Sunday (9/11, tragically fittingly) at the Roxy Cinema in New York.