Sunday, March 09, 2008

Slipstream: Grade B

Anthony Hopkins, John Turturro, Christian Slater, Michael Clarke Duncan, Kevin McCarthy. Producer-Composer-Writer-Director Anthony Hopkins.

Sir Anthony plays the screenwriter of a low budget movie being shot out in the Nevada desert. When a key cast member dies he is called in for a rewrite. However, for the first 45 minutes we don’t know we are (mostly) watching crazy disjointed scenes from a movie within a movie. Then we find out and we watch the movie being made. Then it unfolds that we are actually seeing everything through the imagination of the screenwriter, Hopkins, and since he’s losing his mind, we have been watching a visual of his fevered stream of consciousness. And of course any movie is a fantasy anyway, so as we watch, we partake in yet another layer of reality!

The editing is incredible, with hundreds or thousands of images and scene fragments from about a fifth of a second to two seconds, flashed singly or in rapid sequences. The layers of reality/fantasy interact, so when Hopkins "fires" the script supervisor by writing her out of the meta-script, she becomes irate and tells him that continuity in the movie will suffer. At that point we realize why Christian Slater’s Corvette has been alternating among yellow, pink, and green – bad continuity! But not as "bad" as what the aggressive editing has done to the movie we are watching! We can appreciate the clever analogy between the screenwriter’s fragmented mind and the untrammeled creativity of the Hollywood dream machine. But the idea of a dream within a dream is only exploited, not explored here.

Lynch’s Inland Empire was a systematic exploration of cinematic technique. Hopkins’ film does extend the art form with the incredible stream of short edits, which I enjoyed, though it was fascinating rather than beautiful. This film seems to have no point. The acting was good but not special. There is no plot. On the plus side, the music was great: pop tunes from the 50’s and 60’s and some nice original work by Hopkins. Costumes and sets were flawless. Allusions to old Hollywood movies, sets, styles and characters were abundant, especially the nod to the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, starring Kevin McCarthy, now 93 years and looking good. Stronger writing would have made this movie a winner instead of a better than average experimental film.

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