MORTAL THOUGHTS (Alan Rudolph, 1991)

Mostly ignoring William Reilly and Claude Kerven’s preposterous, muddled script, Alan Rudolph does the impossible with the material he has been dealt and makes a creepy, giddy, genuinely scary mystery film about two young women, best friends since childhood, who kill each other’s spouse for personal reasons while at the same time enacting the secret wish of the victim’s wife. With Demi Moore and Glenne Headley playing these wives, Cynthia and Joyce, Rudolph mischievously implies that thwarted and repressed lesbian love accounts for the women’s appetite for male blood. At bottom, the film may be a subversive black comedy.
     Structurally, the film is presented, initially, as Cynthia’s voluntary statement to the police after Joyce has been arrested for the murder of her husband, Jimmy. The tale it tells was probably fabricated by the two friends, although one suspects that plot details were more decisively nailed down in the script; the almost total air of ambiguity is Rudolph’s delectable improvement. An attempted rape, at least in the script, becomes an irresolvable question mark in the film as Cynthia’s flashbacks apart from the police represent either “what really happened” or some scenario Cynthia has concocted and is currently reviewing. The film ends with Cynthia’s entrance into the police station either for the first time, giving the narrative a curve-around spin, or for the second time, to withdraw her earlier account and either “come clean” or proffer another, more convincing series of lies. I am convinced that the authors of the script were dead-serious but that Rudolph is having a whole lot of fun. Let me go further: one’s enjoyment of the film probably depends on tapping into this fun.
     In any case, one has to overlook the farcical acting of Moore as Cynthia and Bruce Willis as Joyce’s possibly overbearing Jimmy. (I say “possibly” because what we see is never certainly reality here.) Harvey Keitel is similarly overbearing as a police detective relentlessly pressing on various points of Cynthia’s account. Keitel is normally a very good actor—indeed a fine one for Rudolph (Welcome to L.A., 1976), and it’s possible that Rudolph directed him to give a deliberately lousy performance to match the lousy ones that were all that Moore and Willis, not great talents, could give. What I’m certain of is this: Mark Isham’s music, full of fairy-tale creepiness and lurking danger, excels.

B(U)Y THE BOOK

MY BOOK, A Short Chronology of World Cinema, IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE FROM THE SANDS FILMS CINEMA CLUB IN LONDON. USING EITHER OF THE LINKS BELOW, ACCESS THE ADVERTISEMENT FOR THIS BOOK, FROM WHICH YOU CAN ORDER ONE OR MORE COPIES OF IT. THANKS.

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