Thursday, March 6, 2008

Slipstream. Umm...what? Out now. (****4/10)

Anthony Hopkins should feel good about his new movie Slipstream. He directed the film, as well as starring in it, and I am going to go ahead and assume that it turned out exactly the way he wanted it to turn out. That is, weird. I respect the fact that as long as his movie fit his vision, he didn't care at all whether the rest of us got it or not, and even may not have cared if we enjoyed it or not. Slipstream seems to be about a movie script-writer whose mind is going, and who lives half in reality, half in his mind. Somehow, when I watched the trailers, I got the sense that this movie was about time travel. Maybe it was supposed to be about time travel, and I just didn't get it. Hey, for all I know, this film could have been about a rabbit and a butterfly. Frankly, there's no good way to tell. I have the sense that if I watched this film five or six times, I would be able to figure out what's going on. But I don't feel like doing that. Frankly, I don't feel like watching it twice. I also have the sense that if David Lynch was allowed to make an entire movie while on PCP, it would look something like this one.

It's OK to make a movie that doesn't make perfect sense. Look at Lynch - Mulholland Drive, for example. And some of the greatest films are almost as bonkers as this one. Like, Weekend, for example, or Fellini's stuff. But you have to either go all out, or wrap things up in some way. Slipstream starts out with a bunch of scenes that don't fit together, a series of weird moments, one after another, slight changes in scenes that seem to indicate there is something bigger going on...and all of a sudden we've hit the 40 minute mark. And we still have no idea what's happening. At all. Then things start making a little more sense. But by then, no one cares. We've completely given up on trying to make sense of anything, and when stuff sort of starts coming together, we just want it to wrap up and the movie be over. And this one never really comes together at all. Individually, each scene is likely compelling. Hopkins is quite good at creating a memorable image, or phrase, or moment. But taken collectively, this is just too much for your average viewer. Or your sub-par viewer, or your above-average, gifted viewer. Any viewer.

There are some great performances in here. Hopkins is terrific, and John Turturro is awesome fun as a maniac movie producer. The film also stars Camryn Manheim, Christian Slater, Michael Clarke Duncan, Jeffrey Tambor, and in the most bizarre cameo of the year, Kevin McCarthy as himself. For some reason, Slipstream continually refers to the 1956 classic horror film Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers. And Kevin McCarthy, who was the star of that film, shows up as himself, now at age 84, in order to sit in a car with Hopkins. Since the movie ended, I have been trying very hard to understand the references to Bodysnatchers, but I have yet to figure it out. And I'm not willing to watch it again to help me understand. Slipstream is a ballsy film to make, it's as experimental and avant-garde (if that's even a real term) as anything made this year, but it doesn't work. When it was over, I suspected that it was a movie designed specifically to confuse me, rather than to make me think. It's like having one of those magic-eye pictures, the ones you stare at for a long time until you see a sailboat or a tiger or whatever. Only, this one has no underlying picture. So you can stare at it for as long as you like, but you'll never see anything. And you will be frustrated and angry.

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