Director: Alan Rudolph

In the context of a Hollywood more than ever wedded to blockbusting genre formulas, writer-director Alan Rudolph’s cinema offers particularly refined pleasures. A graduate of the Robert Altman school of maverick moviemaking, Rudolph is a gifted auteur whose best films play sweet variations on La Ronde’s theme of love and its deceptions. Afterglow is vintage Rudolph, with the added bonus of Julie Christie in her best role since Don’t Look Now. Here she plays a retired movie star who’s married to handyman Nick Nolte (appropriately, he’s named ‘Lucky’ Mann). There’s an unresolved tension in their relationship, which has to do with their estranged daughter, whom Christie claims to have seen on the streets of Montreal. Across town, a younger couple are also unfulfilled, though for quite different reasons. The wife (Lara Flynn Boyle) is desperate for a child, a longing that falls on the deaf ears of her careerist husband (Johnny Lee Miller). Inevitably, Rudolph brings the two couples together, with Boyle seducing Nolte and Christie toying with Miller. The results make for a very superior romantic comedy that owes more to the work of the great Max Ophuls than formulaic Hollywood clones of recent years. As with Ophuls, Rudolph’s thesis seems to be that love is the ultimate grail, eternally sought and eternally veiled by the vagaries of human endeavour.
U.S.A., 1997. Colour. Dolby stereo SR. 113 mins.

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