Alan Rudolph's Trouble in Mind

Tampering with Myths

Subjects: Media Studies, Cinema Studies
Paperback : 9780472039395, 172 pages, 35 photographs, 5 x 7, December 2023
Open Access : 9780472903788, 172 pages, 35 photographs, 5 x 7, December 2023

The open-access publication of this book was made possible through the generous support of Joshua A. Bilmes and JABberwocky Literary Agency.
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A critical analysis of Alan Rudolph’s dreamy neo-noir

Table of contents


List of Figures


Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: The Plot: Borrowed Pasts and Unclear Futures

Chapter 3: Trouble in Mind in Independent Cinema: Smooth Sailing in a Troubled Term

Chapter 4: Neo noir and Anti noir: Playing with Tropes

Chapter 5: The Style of Dreams: Image and Music

Chapter 6: The 1980s: Broken Politics, Surfaces, and Dreams

Chapter 7: Marketing and Reception

Chapter 8: Archives, Afterlives, and Author’s Acknowledgements




Despite a career spanning over forty years, filmmaker Alan Rudolph has flown largely under the radar of independent film scholars and enthusiasts, often remembered as Robert Altman’s protégé. Through a reading of his 1985 film Trouble in Mind, Caryl Flinn demonstrates that Rudolph is long overdue for critical re-evaluation. 

Exploring Trouble in Mind’s influence on indie filmmaking, Rudolph’s dream-like style, and the external political influences of the Reagan era, Flinn effectively conveys the originality of Rudolph’s work through this multifaceted film. Utilizing archival materials and interviews with Rudolph himself and his collaborators, Flinn argues for this career-defining film’s relevance to American independent cinema and the decade of the 1980s. Amply illustrated with frame enlargements and set photographs, this book uncovers new production stories and reception contexts of a film that Flinn argues deserves a place in the limelight.

Caryl Flinn is Professor of Film, Television, and Media at the University of Michigan.

“In recent years the discipline of cinema studies seems to be moving into the archive but without the excitement that characterized so much of the writing during the early years of cinema studies. This book on Trouble in Mind promises a new mode of study with roots in the archive but with multiple strategies for making it yield interpretive criticism. The result is a rich appreciation of how the film was received.”

- Krin Gabbard, Stony Brook University

“This book fills a void in the work on independent cinema, particularly with regard to the 1980s, as well as director Alan Rudolph, who has largely remained in the shadow of his mentor Robert Altman in film scholarship. It serves as a model for reading films of this period in light of Reagan-era politics and policies.”

- Richard Ness, Western Illinois University

“This book is a gem. Full disclosure—I am one of the producers of Alan Rudolph’s film Trouble in Mind, but Caryl Flinn has introduced me to more than I knew even while filming it. Full of detail and observations of decision-making during the creative process, it was wonderful to read.”

- Carolyn Pfeiffer, Film Producer

“Caryl Flinn’s Alan Rudolph’s Trouble in Mind: Tampering with Myths offers a wonderfully clear, well-argued, and comprehensive exploration of Alan Rudolph’s 1985 neo-noir. Placing the film in an exacting aesthetic, social and political context, Flinn makes a most compelling case for the film’s importance to independent cinema and for Rudolph as an extraordinary film artist.”

- Justin Wyatt, University of Rhode Island

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Read: Author Q&A | December 8, 2023