Schnitzler in La La Land, "daydreams and traffic" for years. Geraldine Chaplin in furs sets the modish timbre, regaling the camera in the back of a cab as palm trees drift by: "People deceive themselves here, don't you think? Yes. And that's how they fall in love." The shutterbug (Lauren Hutton) and the real estate agent (Sally Kellerman) and the record producer (Viveca Lindfors), conquests like "frozen dinner" to the prodigal wastrel (Keith Carradine). The snowy king (Denver Pyle) has his blond-toady executive (Harvey Keitel) whose wife fancies herself Garbo in Camille, the chambermaid in the sidelines (Sissy Spacek) vacuums topless. A melodic construction, at the center of the rondo moans the troubadour (Richard Baskin) in his darkened studio: "So I've been living in the city of the one-night stands..." The "loneliest and most brutal of American cities" (Kerouac) is Alan Rudolph's yearning stage, where flakiness morphs into spiritual mobility. Goya's sleep of reason is part of Chaplin's Meet-Cute chatter, in her scarlet dress sprawled across a billiards table she's nearly a Chagall. Reflections and pirouettes, not Hollywood but the music netherworld, people perpetually in danger of blending into wallpaper or floating in rear-view mirrors. (A slow pan-zoom on Lindfors in her mirrored bathroom is a memento from padrone Altman, distilled to its essence.) "When you sell yourself, don't misrepresent the goods." An anti-Shampoo, the Christmastime miracle of sudden connection. Carradine at the piano fills the screen until Spacek's strawberry blonde head (with a rose pinned on top) partly obscures the foreground like a Monet bouquet, then there's John Considine alone on a display mattress in an after-hours furniture store. "...and God, it's the best temptation of all." The final image points up Rudolph's debt to Alfie. Cinematography by David Meyers. With Allan F. Nicholls, Mike Kaplan, and Diahnne Abbott.
--- Fernando F. Croce