Slipstream (2007)

Slipstream (2007)

Film review by: Witney Seibold


            “Slipstream” (née “Slipstream Dream”) is the 2007 writing/directing/score-composing vanity project of Academy Award-winning actor Anthony Hopkins. When thinking back on it, I recaAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH! AAAAHHH! OHGODNO! GETITAWAYFROMMYEYES!! AAAHHH!!

            Sorry. I’m back. A few days have passed. I’ve spoken with a therapist, and I’ve taken some nifty new medications to get me through this review.


            Anyway, onto “Slipstream.” Slipstream is abou


            Back again. Another few days passed.


            Sorry about the delays, but recalling this movie invokes a strange sense of confused emptiness that is rarely found outside of the mind of a mad Ingmar Bergman character in “Through a Glass Darkly.” At first, you’re just made dizzy by the “experimental”-style editing, strange oppressive audio, and senseless storytelling-less storytelling. Then you’re pounded into submission by plot twists and masturbatory pseudo-meditations on the nature of the creator being overcome by his creations. Pirandello it ain’t. The, finally, you’re slow-roasted into a deep feeling of hollow despair as minutes stretch into hours, hours stretch into days, and “Slipstream” begins to resemble a never-ending Joyce-ian möbius loop of horrifying, horrifying Lynchian ambiguity. But without any of Lynch’s style, humor, art, cogency, or thought.


            What happens in the film: Hopkins plays Felix Bonhoeffer, a screenwriter living in Hollywood, dating a pretty young blonde (Lisa Pepper). He witnesses a freeway shooting, and may have been killed in it himself, as the killer shoots at him point blank. Skulking about the margins of Felix’ life is a shadowy pair of suit-wearing gangsters (Christian Slater and Jeffrey Tambor) who talk unnecessarily rough, and kill off a character played by Michael Clarke Duncan early in the film. Also, there’s a Norma Desomnd-type character in a turban (Fionnula Flanagan) who talks about pending jobs.


            The two gangsters arrive at a desert diner somewhere in Arizona, and wave their guns at the put-upon waitstaff (S. Epatha Merkerson is the waitress) and give speeches about “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and what a good performance Kevin McCarthy gave.


            Then! Then! Then Christian Slater’s character stumble in his speech, and collapses on the floor. Then some yells “cut!” We pull back, and it is revealed that this diner is a movie set! Everyone is just an actor, and the film is being directed by a spineless John Littlefield. And Felix Bonhoeffer lives, but now is married to a different woman (Stella Arroyave), and has to do business with a thuggish producer played by John Turturro. Oh, and the actor Christian Slater was portraying dies on set, and questions of whether or not the film-within-the-film will continue.


            Then there’s a third story where we cute even further back to reveal that the film-with-the-film is actually also a film-withiont-a-film, and Bonhoeffer, now presumably Hopkins himself, is losing his sanity to the characters he is writing. The characters start getting mad that they’re dying. It’s even explained that some of the film’s blaring continuity errors occurred because the film-with-a-film’s continuity-checker character (Camryn Manheim) was killed. Or perhaps it’s just that Bonhoeffer/Hopkins is dying, and this is the way a Hollywood icon sees his film career as having played out. There’s a lot of talk of dying, and I think Hopkins died several times in the films final six years (actual screentime: 30 minutes). Also, Kevin McCarthy himself appears as an eerie spiritual guide. And (and I would lie about this) a mystical Indian character shows up periodically.


            As oblique as this all sounds, “Slipstream’s” incomprehensibity and disorientation are only compounded by a filmmaking style that Oliver Stone could only toy with in his deepest mushroom-induced stupors. One-second flashbacks accompany each character (here’s stock footage of a frycook’s time in Vietnam. Here’s the character from “All About Eve” that inspired the old lady’s behavior. Here’s the violent event we already witnessed, but louder). Occasionally a line is spoken, reversed, and then spoken again. Occasionally Hopkins will reverse an image he already showed us in addition to showing it backwards (with the added effect of us occasionally losing our sense of geography within a scene; “wait, wasn’t he just facing the other way?”). Things dart into frame just before an edit. The film’s color fades in and out like an 8-year-old playing with the TV’s color knobs.


            Were this film made by an ambitious and misguided CSUN film student, then I could give them a pass for trying out all the nifty things one can do with a camera, and trying out one of those pretentious Lynchian Stoneian that they read so much about (and didn’t really fully analyze) in their Bordwell/Thompson book. I couldn’t give them a pass for quality, but at least I could admire their ambition as a neophyte filmmaker.


            But this film was not made by a neophyte to the film world. IT WAS MADE BY ANTHONY FUCKING HOPKINS. The 70-year-old Welsh actor who has won an Academy Award for “The Silence of the Lambs,” and has played in Shakespeare (Of course, he has also starred in the overwrought “Mission: Impossible 2,” the absurd “Freejack,” the disgusting “The Road to Wellville,” and narrated the hideous “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” So perhaps his taste isn’t as good as his image of a Shakespearean actor would have us believe). You would think, though, that as an actor, he would direct a pet project of his favorite Shakespeare play, or perhaps play an aging actor like Peter O’Toole in “Venus.” Maybe he would make a biopic of his favorite artist á la Kevin Spacey in “Beyond the Sea.”


            No, Hopkins tried to make his own, less cogent version of “Inland Empire.” He tried to meditate on the Hollywood system in a noisy, dark, hopeless, confusing way. It was such a batshit insane movie, that during the decade-long experience that I had, I became convinced that Hopkins is himself going slowly mad. Like Guy de Maupassant in his cell, he is planting toenail clippings hoping they’ll grow into miniature versions of himself. That, at least would explain “Slipstream” better than any in depth analysis by any film scholars.


            I am tempted to watch the film on video with the director’s commentary track turned on, just to hear what sort of bizzaro explanations Hopkins tried to give for his totally earnest miasma, but that would require seeing the film again, and I’m still on the long road to recovery from the first time.

Published in: on April 28, 2008 at 10:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

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