Monday, September 10, 2012

Trouble in Mind: revisiting Rain City

Yesterday Seattle came close to reaching a 1951 record by stretching out a dry spell to about 49 consecutive days. It finally sprinkled last night (9/10 September) to leave the foliage gleaming with droplets by morning. The 1951 record was 51 days. That for a town often referred to as “Rain City”.

Rain City

But why Rain City? Perhaps because the dry sunny summer period typically only lasts from May to late September, with plenty of days with rain through the rest of the year? Seattle does have several other nicknames, including The Gateway to Alaska, Queen City, Jet City, and Emerald City.
Rain City is the fictional city in which the 1985 film noir “Trouble in Mind” was set. Did Seattle appropriate the nickname “Rain City” from that film? Or was the name in the film taken from Seattle’s nickname? The movie was filmed in Seattle.

Director Alan Rudolph chose some of the meaner areas of Seattle on the edge of downtown, beneath overpasses and under the monorail for much of his filming. He took over a derelict corner property in a downtown building to create a café as a center point. In the opening scene in which Kris Kristofferson leaves prison having served a sentence for murder, Marianne Faithful sets the mood with the opening song, an appropriately raspy rendition of the slow 8-bar blues song, Trouble in Mind written by jazz pianist Richard M Jones (first recorded with Thelma La Vizzo accompanied by Jones on piano in 1941). Actors include Kris Kristofferson, (as Hawk) Genevieve Bujold, Joe Morton, Lori Singer (as Georgia) and Keith Carradine (as Coop).

The action of this retro futuristic melodramatic gangster romance culminates in a shoot-out at the luxury residence of the smooth gangster character Divine. For suitable opulence the film uses the Seattle Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park. Cleared of its usual displays, the museum is transformed into an art-moderne mansion with armed guards at the gates, and decorated throughout with wonderful paintings and sculptures on loan for the film by northwest artists. During the course of the action late in the film one large painting is destroyed spectacularly over someone’s head, while a bullet smashes a large glass installation by Dale Chihuly, something some of Kristin’s artists friends delight in replaying. 

Hawk,Georgia and Coop.

Watching the film this week, Kristin Nelson pointed out one of her ceramic sculptures she loaned for the mansion scene. The scene was full of work from the local art scene. “But it was a budget production” she explained. “You can tell by the length of the credits; we all had our names in the credits instead of being paid, so the credits are very long!” Sadly the credits weren’t quite accurate… they misspelled her name!

Trouble in Mind is a thought-provoking film. The characters come together each in their own style, as if from different times, or as caricatures from an old comic book. The film is ambiguously set in the future or past, so after than 25 years later I think it still looks fresh. 
Seattle Asian Art Museum

Yesterday the Seattle Asian Art museum with its pair of sitting camels guarding the main entrance looked serene in its summer setting. Currently showing inside is the Ramayana exhibition of 44 works of Indian art from 16th century onward. There is no sign of smashed glass or blood stains. Nearby and also within Volunteer Park is the park conservatory: a mini crystal palace full of wonderful plant specimens from around the world. The conservatory this weekend celebrated its 100th anniversary. Happy anniversary!

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