Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 8 No. 2 | Summer 1986 (Seattle) /// Issue 16 of 24 /// Master# 64 of 73

SAVE THE BEST FOR LAST Zn the Spring of 1985, director Alan Rudolph came to Seattle with plans to make a film around the city. The resultant Trouble in Mind used many of the city’s prominent landmarks as background texture for “Rain City.” His most noticeably humorous adaptation was the use of the Seattle Art Museum. It became the mansion of Hilly Blue, played by Divine of Pink Flamingos fame, an art aficionado/ mobster who plays host to gangland rivals Kris Kristofferson and Keith Carradine. When the finished film came around recently, just seeing the often stodgy museum transformed into a gangster palace caused Seattle audiences to spontaneously explode in laughter—night after night. Seattle Art-Work in Alan Rudolph’s Trouble in Mind By Kirby Olson What has not been talked about is the exciting use of recent Seattle art, which covered the walls of the museum. Artist Carl Smool was commissioned by Rudolph to choose works which had a twisted perspective, which were “excessive, extraordinary”—to amplify the mood in the film’s climactic minutes. Scores of Seattle artists were included in the credits of Trouble in Mind, though only a handful actually had significant screen time. Andy Keating, who had pieces from over a ten-year period in the film, seemed to most completely satisfy Rudolph’s criteria. One Keating piece was of a demonic mother, which accented Hilly Blue’s mother fixation. Perhaps the most effective use of a painting in the entire movie was of Keating’s Myopic Allegory, which has a pink man running in red high heels off a cliff—an image which resonated perfectly off Divine’s androgynous personality, creating a marvelous, hilarious effect. Debra Sherwood’s work is seen in a series of large ceramic sculptures of eery inhuman beings in a variety of striped garb. At one point, the camera focusses entirely on one of them as Divine and Kristofferson repair to the study to hammer out a truce. Once there, they are framed by a lovely black and white geometric painting, Enchantment 2, by Diane Rayes. The plot of Trouble in Mind parallels the Epic of Gilgamesh, the oldest known novel, written in Sumeria nearly 5,000 years ago. In the novel, two titans, Gilgamesh, from the city and Enkidu, from the country, face off, and then become allies against the lumber god Humbaba. In the film, Kristofferson and Carradine unwittingly team up to take on Divine, who unfortunately catches a Kristofferson bullet in the head before he can cut loose. This sadly precludes the suspenseful battle which makes Gilgamesh so rousing. Divine’s death, however, in a mansion full of loaded, armed gangsters, sets up a scene of mayhem in which a lot of art was seemingly (and actually) destroyed. Smool and the filmmakers had some trouble finding work that artists were willing to let be destroyed. Joanie Joans volunteered a small figurative sculpture that had its head blown off in the choreographed shooting sequence. A parody of classic surrealist painting by Lou Ray Gehrig and Candace Barker departed this world with a gangster'impaled upon it as he tumbled down a flight of steps. It had hung as a banner outside the artists’ Pioneer Square studio for years before meeting its fate. In fact, only one piece not slated for destruction was injured during the entire process, a fragile 3-D sculpture by Steven McClelland, which was later successfully repaired. He was very understanding. Carl Smool was made the art coordinator after the filmmakers looked at his studio as a possible site for Wanda’s Cafe, a central gathering place in the film’s “Rain City.” Smool collected slides and stills from artists whose work fit into the film’s themes. Art Director Stephen Legler and crew arranged the chosen works on the museum’s walls literally minutes before the filming of each scene. A parody of classic surrealist painting by Lou Ray Gehrig and Candace Barker departed this world with a gangster impaled upon it as he tumbled down a flight of steps. It had hung as a banner outside the artists’ Pioneer Square studio for years before meeting its fate. Smool was on hand throughout the shooting of the museum sequence, which he describes as “boring, labor-intensive work.” For every few seconds of rolling cameras there were hours of down time. Shooting took place from sunset to sunrise for several nights, and it became rather tedious. Though he was paid well by Seattle standards, Smool later learned from a friend who had done a similar job for a George Lucas film that his friend’s Los Angeles wages were some ten times higher. Then again, Smool points out, the Lucas film probably had a budget ten times the size of Rudolph’s. Smool deemed the overall experience as positive—both getting to meet many Seattle artists he’d not previously known, Divine and Kristofferson face off on front of some of Seattle's best recent art. Clinton St. Quarterly 33