Alan Rudolph is one of those directors who can only do his own films. A couple of years back, he hired out to do "Mortal Thoughts" for star-producer Demi Moore and it was a catastrophe. Even further back, in 1982, he did a thriller called "Endangered But give the guy his own head and watch out.
Fortunately, this is the case with "Equinox," his latest, which opens today for a week at the Charles. It is a strange and beautiful movie, dreamy and violent at once, but most passionately and completely a movie, by someone who really wants to make movies and not money.
Rudolph is musing on the subject of identical twins, far more provocatively than David Cronenberg did years back in "Dead Ringers." The boys, in this case, are played by Matthew Modine; separated at birth 30 years earlier, one of them is a mild-mannered garage mechanic and the other an ambitious young criminal. But, as always, there are strange twists: the criminal, for example, has the last thing you'd expect, which is a doting wife and children. Meanwhile, the garage mechanic is so meek he's hardly there.
Yet these strange brothers will become involved in each other's lives, primarily through the agency of coincidence: Both are accidentally drawn to an Italian restaurant, one to shake it down and the other to help accompany a buddy who wants to make time with one of the waitresses.
But, at the same time, they are being stalked by a wannabe writer/morgue attendant (Tyra Ferrell) who has discovered evidence of their existence in the same city and their mutual but unknown inheritance of a vast fortune. What she sees is not only money but the possibility of a damned good book.
Clearly, that's plot enough for six movies, but Rudolph keeps it spinning along nicely. I should add that the film doesn't take place in that dreary zone called "reality" but in some movie-haunted quasi-noir twilight zone, which is actually Minneapolis pretending to be New York.
Another pleasure of the Rudolph oeuvre is his attractiveness to actors who put aside their usual bloated fees in order to work on something quite singular. Thus, this baby has a superb cast: Fred Ward plays the head gangster; Lara Flynn Boyle plays Meek Modine's dowdy girlfriend; and Lori Singer is Bold Modine's wife. The great Marisa Tomei has a brief, affecting turn as a prostitute. But the best is M. Emmet Walsh, the great character actor, as Meek Modine's show-tune-obsessed dad, a completely strange and enchanting bit of business. It may be worth it for that alone.
Starring Matthew Modine and Lara Flynn Boyle
Directed by Alan Rudolph
Released by IRS