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Hollywood 1978: 12 Neglected Features

Friday, August 3, 1979
7:30 p.m. Remember My Name & Fingers
Alan Rudolph
James Toback (USA,1978)

James Toback in Person


Remember My Name

“Alan Rudolph owes a lot to Robert Altman, but this second film (his first was Welcome To L.A., 1977) upstages his mentor’s recent squibs, and places him in the forefront of American directors. Rudolph’s penchant for black humor recalls S.J. Perelman, along with his gift for unraveling a knotty story line in concise, lyrical fashion. Geraldine Chaplin and Tony Perkins are fine as the jittery protagonists in this updated film noir about an abandoned woman’s peculiar revenge against her old lover. But Jeff Goldblum nearly steals the picture in a bit part - and oh, how Alberta Hunter can sing those blues.”

The Real Paper, Boston

• Directed and Written by Alan Rudolph. Produced by Robert Altman. With Geraldine Chaplin, Tony Perkins, Berry Berenson, Moses Gunn, Jeff Goldblum. Music composed and performed by Alberta Hunter. (1978, 89 mins, 35mm, color, Print from Mike Kaplan)

Fingers

This is the directorial debut of James Toback, author of the original screenplay for The Gambler, and former English teacher at N.Y. City College. The film concerns the conflicts of a violent, obsessed young man (Harvey Keitel), reminiscent of Martin Scorsese’s heroes, part hoodlum, part artist: the son of a small-time Italian gangster for whom he induces payments from reluctant debtors; with a former concert-pianist, Jewish mother in a mental institution.
Pauline Kael, in The New Yorker, describes Fingers as “Toback trying to be Orson Welles, Carol Reed, Dostoevski, Conrad and Kafka... (an) exuberantly melodramatic fantasy (with) the wild self-dramatization that one associates with the young Tennessee Williams, or with Mailer when he gets high on excess. Insanity, violent bouts of sex, Jacobean revenge killings - nothing is too much for Toback in his exhilarated state.... he’s looking for art in that beyond, wanting the unknown - the dangerous - to take over.... Yet the film never seems ridiculous, because he’s got the true moviemaking fever.”
• Directed and Written by James Toback. Photographed by Mike Chapman. With Harvey Keitel, Tisa Farrow, Jim Brown, Michael V. Gazzo, Marian Seldes, Carole Francis, Anthony Sirocco. (1978, 91 mins, color, Print from Films Inc.)