I live for good/bad movies of the golden age, and 1977’s Welcome To L.A. fits the bill, smog and all.
It’s an arid story of interlocking romances, all set amidst a bleak, impersonal, unhappy, yearning L.A. landscape where you never see all that many people in any scene. (Maybe there was a low budget for extras.)
Robert Altman acolyte Alan Rudolph wrote and directed, with obvious tips of the hat to the master. Just like in Altman’s 1975 classic Nashville (which Rudolph worked on), Keith Carradine plays a musician who takes constant advantage of the fact that women get weak in the knees for him. He bangs the ladies even more than he bangs his pet guitar.
And Geraldine Chaplin plays a neurotic character who pretty much narrates the piece, in this case by dictating garbled diary entries into a tape recorder in between reminding everyone that she’s going to die soon. (Fingers crossed.)
Add to the mix Lauren Hutton as an ominous photographer, Sissy Spacek as a topless maid, Viveca Lindfors as a distraught older woman, and Sally Kellerman and Harvey Keitel as two more yearning L.A. types, and you’ve got an unforgettable brew of pretension and mock profundity.
There are some engaging encounters in the film, but they give way to banality too often. The best/worst thing of all is that Richard Baskin (who later became Barbra Streisand‘s collaborator/lover) appears as a long-haired musician recording an album of hopelessly droning songs about the meaningless of life. (“We’re living in the city of the one-night stands…”)
Just when you think Baskin’s songs are finally through, Rudolph cuts back to him for one more deadening chorus.
It turns out Baskin played Frog in the amazing Nashville and even wrote songs for it, but most of them were used to mock their characters (“One, I Love You,” “I Never Get Enough,” “200 Years”). He probably wrote them in earnest, lol.
Anyway, welcome to Welcome To L.A.. You’ll be glad you live somwewhere else.
Thanks to Kenyon Phillips for bringing me the movie on command.