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Experimental Film And Video:
by Jackie Hatfield
(Discounted Paperback from Amazon)
Few filmgoers would argue that sir Anthony Hopkins is one of the great actors of our generation and, at 70, he's still going very strong. No one would blame him, either, for wanting to leave a mark in other branches of filmmaking. One's ambitions should be fulfilled. So it is that he's been pondering multiple realities as the basis of a screenplay for himself to direct.
He calls it a "stream of consciousness" experiment, per the press notes. "Scenes have no obvious connection with other scenes; everything appears to be unrelated, haphazard with no significant 'through line of action.'" Or comprehension, I might add.
Screenwriter Felix Bonhoeffer (Hopkins) is his character. He is, purportedly, the manufacturer of the delusions that we see on screen. But these are no mind projections; they are largely the product of endless editing, time shifting and misleading imagery. They are to represent a mind that is "imploding," to use the official description. When he's seen, he's often in a zombie-like trance that would, in reality, bring on the ambulances, screaming. But, never mind, he's okay, he repeatedly insists when asked.
Those doing the asking are the actors he's brought into the ensemble to realize his juxtapositioning of fiction and reality. The characters are involved in a murder mystery that Bonhoeffer wrote and which we see in fragments, enough to understand that Ray (Christian Slater, "Bobby") and sidekick Geek (Jeffrey Tambor, "The King of Central Park") are a pair of homicidal lunatics you don't want to stop by your roadside diner while you're having lunch.
Because it's Hopkins behind the madness it's all presented by skilled pros before and behind the camera and, if the film has anything, it's a noirishly atmospheric look primarily the product of ace cinematographer Dante Spinotti ("The Contract"). But a professional look doesn't ever override the overedited melange we are being subject to.
Offering their textures is an, indeed, interesting bunch, including Christopher Lawford as Lars, the movie within the movie's slick cinematographer character and ladies' man, S. Epatha Merkerson ("Law and Order"), Charlene Rose, the Dolly Parton lookalike, John Turturro ("The Good Shepherd"), smoothe wonderful Michael Clarke Duncan as Mort ("Sin City"), Fionnula Flanagan ("Four Brothers") and Camryn Manheim ("The Practice," TV). Julie Weiss ("The Missing") lent her formidable skill in costume design.
The distinct nature of the acting profession is the repeated act of creating fictional realities which the actor lives with along with the reality we all share, aka, real life. It's small wonder that an actor might want to express, in some form, this process. Hopkins alludes to (again in the press notes) of his interest in what's off camera as he watches a movie. His film, then, is about conveying the separation between his mind's focus within the imaginary bubble of the story and his character within it, and the need to mentally not "see" outside that finite space. Unfortunately, however, the importance or, even, the meaning of it isn't part of the non-actor's experience and, even if it were, the impossibility of devising a concept to make it entertaining is just not realized here.
The original music on the soundtrack is by Hopkins, as well.
It's being called a comedy and, it is, of a kind. But don't go expecting Carell or Carrey. It may be called an indulgence, but one is inclined to indulge the talented knight up to a point, though audiences might not be so supportive.
From a commercial perspective, the editing-on-speed time shifts and overlaps render Hopkin's "experiment" inaccesible to the degree that the movie will be lucky if it makes two cents. With its industry in-joke content, its appeal might be limited to a filmmaker demographic, which won't go a long way. The rest of the audience will be inveterate art house patrons and Hopkins devotees.
~~ Jules Brenner