Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Neo-Noir Watch: Remember My Name (1978)

Watched:  07/13/2021
Format:  TCM Underground on TCM
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1970's
Director:  Alan Rudolph

Into it.  

A late 1970's sorta-thriller where the viewer slowly puts the pieces together as you watch a clearly broken woman arrive in LA and then target a couple who don't seem to know her.  

Remember My Name (1978) stars Geraldine Chaplin (daughter of Charlie) as an ex-con who seems a bit off, even for the actions she's taking.  Frankly, Chaplin is pretty great here, working in a sort of breezy, Altman-esque manner (Altman produced the film).  Weirdly, Chaplin is still wildly prolific, but is working in corners that means I just haven't seen her in much - and didn't know who she was when I did see her.  

I assume this movie flew under the radar and didn't give Chaplin the credit she'd get for it now, but I also believe this movie deserves some reconsideration in our current cultural discussion.  

Co-starring is Anthony Perkins in his kind of mid-40's period, and he's just incredibly understated and natural as a performer - getting big wins from small things.  Acting alongside Perkins is his wife*, Berry Berenson, playing his wife and the more confused and concerned of the pair.  

Also in the film:  Moses Gunn as Chaplin's neighbor.  But - an incredibly young Alfre Woodard and Jeff Goldblum appear as Chaplin's co-workers, and are already demonstrably Woodard and Goldblum.  

There's likely something to be said about the very Bluesy soundtrack by Alberta Hunter, and it's probably not "it doesn't feel like it should fit on this movie, but it absolutely does".  And use of race in the film is some interesting, unspoken stuff, up to and including the soundtrack.  


In the end, this is a fascinating revenge movie where we learn about a character almost more by the silhouette of the space she takes up in a film and what she leaves in her wake than we get from much of what she says.  It's almost all action - show don't tell.  Even her planned speech is part of the mechanism.

It's a fascinating look at a woman left behind under circumstances that never quite become clear, but she was clearly thrown under the bus by her then-husband in Perkins.  Again - would be curious to see how the film was viewed then and how it's viewed now.  

It's unclear if Perkins and Berenson's characters deserve the chaos in their life - Berenson is a certain "no", but you get the feeling this marriage was on the skids to begin with and she was gone within the year before any of this happened.  

It's also a hell of an indictment on the fantasy of reconnecting with a former lover, which Hallmark trades in.  It is not flattering to have a former wife throw rocks through your windows.

*so, up until watching this movie and looking at IMDB, I did not know Perkins had ever been married or had a heterosexual relationship, let alone was the father of two sons.  Heartbreakingly, Berry Berenson died as one of the passengers in one of the planes on 9/11.  I don't remember hearing anything about it at the time.

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