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  Welcome to L.A. Christmas In La La Land
Year: 1976
Director: Alan Rudolph
Stars: Keith Carradine, Sally Kellerman, Geraldine Chaplin, Harvey Keitel, Lauren Hutton, Viveca Lindfors, Sissy Spacek, Denver Pyle, John Considine, Richard Baskin, Allan F. Nicholls, Cedric Scott, Mike Kaplan, Diahnne Abbott, Ron Silver
Genre: Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Karen Hood (Geraldine Chaplin) is married to Ken (Harvey Keitel), and is convinced she is not long for this world thanks to a bad cough and an obsession with the films of Greta Garbo, which she attends alone at revival houses because nobody else is interested. Meanwhile Nona Bruce (Lauren Hutton) is a photographer who will take your picture whether you want her to or not, and Anne Goode (Sally Kellerman) is in real estate, but desperately wants to be loved - by someone else's husband if necessary. Linda Murray (Sissy Spacek) is a maid with unorthodox practices, and she's having an affair with Ken, but when singer-songwriter Carroll Barber (Keith Carradine) arrives in Los Angeles...

Hang on to your hats, because that's the cue for a rip-snorting, high octane, white knuckle, er, meander and mope around some self-preoccupied Los Angelenos as they tried and failed to sort out their private lives. This was Alan Rudolph's first film, after a couple of low budget horrors, that truly set out his signature style, for it was not his style at all but his friend and producer Robert Altman's, whom he had evidently been studying intently to develop a copycat approach as seen in Altman's most recent movie at the time, Nashville. Welcome to L.A. was not as ambitious or indeed lengthy as that work, but it could be regarded as a bastard offspring from some of the same talents.

The trouble was, if you were a fan of Altman's efforts, you had a choice: you either accepted this slavish but not as good facsimile, or you rejected it outright, and many audiences, even those who were not familiar with what was being emulated, chose the latter, finding this simply too difficult to get along with when it came across as barely coherent and populated by characters you couldn't have cared less about. They were so self-absorbed that it was not easy to find a way into their world and divine anything approaching sympathy for their plight when simply being honest with one another, and more importantly stop being so oblique when they did communicate, would seem to be obvious.

Though it was not obvious to this lot, as they wandered aimlessly through their lives feeling irksomely sorry for themselves. Naturally, Welcome to L.A. became a cult movie when it seemed rather prescient: the frequent musical interludes by Richard Baskin (ill-advisedly doing his own singing), who had worked on Nashville, would be familiar in their framing devices to anyone who had seen Magnolia, or One from the Heart, La La Land even, and details like clothes matching wallpaper were referenced in Garden State, or Spacek vacuuming topless nodded to in Working Girl (assuming that was a reference). Basically, any ensemble film set in a bustling city was going to be owing some form of debt to Rudolph here - alternatively, it was Altman they owed the debt to, which would be more convincing in the long run rather than making great claims for this.

Carradine, looking unsettlingly like a cross between Jack Hargreaves and Shaggy from Scooby-Doo, was supposed to be this terrific lothario, with an Achilles' heel in that he cannot relate to his father (Westerns character actor Denver Pyle in what could have been John Wayne's final role had things turned out differently), not that this seems to hold him back more than anything else in the movie. Curiously, this was a Christmas movie, though despite numerous presents and get-togethers a less Christmassy atmosphere would not be imaginable, as if the location rendered everything in the same, banal, ungenerous spirit. This was not a love letter to Los Angeles, as it appeared Rudolph really did not like what it had done to anybody featured, and if this was how it affected you, you could well understand that. Chaplin did the best with a precious role, though her full frontal nude scene arrived out of nowhere, and when she and kooky Spacek finally meet and it looks like this might get interesting, that's the end of the film.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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