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Insignificance

Nicolas Roeg
UK 1985 / 108’
Eureka Track 29

"I like the probability of the impossible," says Roeg, and the dramedy Insignificance makes the impossible probable, leading to an on-screen meeting that never happened in reality. It's March 1954, the height of the Cold War. Senator Joe McCarthy (played by Tony Curtis) comes to the New York hotel room that is home to Albert Einstein, called the Professor (Michael Emil) in the film, to persuade him to testify before a committee that is obsessively hunting down communists. After he leaves, the Actress, i.e., Marilyn Monroe (Theresa Russell), knocks at the door, and they're joined by the Ballplayer, i.e., Joe DiMaggio, Monroe's husband at the time (Gary Busey). The most important moment of the evening is a lecture by Marilyn, who provides a wonderful explanation of the Theory of Relativity using a flashlight, a balloon, children's toys, and a copy of Jane Eyre. In fact, the entire film is a brilliant, fascinating experience related to time, its subjective perception (flowing differently for each character) and the coexistence of the past and present. It is not by chance that the director refers to the traumatic recollections of the protagonists (portrayed in parallel scenes and in various on-set elements), showing how they play a role in determining their lives (the mixed-up chronology also includes jumps into the future). With tongue firmly in cheek and drilling into the heart of deep-seated phobias and obsessions about fame, it is also a portrait of America: deformed, like David Hockney's portrait of Russell and Monroe-made up of fragments of photos-hanging in the hotel room.

awards

Cannes IFF 1985 - Technical Grand Prize

Nicolas Roeg

Born in 1928, Nicolas Roeg is one of Britain's most original filmmakers: a director with passion who tears down the order of the classical narrative, a master of editing and an outstanding stylist. Probing with his camera deep into our obsessions, tormenting memories, unhealed collective and individual wounds and sexual fantasies, he broke down the on-screen division between past and present, proving - in a particularly brilliant way - that cinema is a time capsule. While struggling for years with rejection and being misunderstood, Roeg consistently followed the path of an outsider, not only setting his films outside Great Britain (in Australia, the Seychelles, Vienna), but also happily working with artists associated with counter-cultural rebellion (David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Art Garfunkel). Films that came to be appreciated a bit too late, such as PerformanceDon't Look Now, WalkaboutThe Man Who Fell to Earth and Bad Timing, are iconic works: visually stunning, engaging, provocative fairy tales for adults.

Selected filmography

1970 Performance

1971 Walkabout

1973 Nie oglądaj się teraz / Don’t Look Now

1976 Człowiek, który spadł na ziemię / The Man Who Fell to Earth

1980 Zmysłowa obsesja / Bad Timing

1983 Eureka

1985 Z przymrużeniem oka / Insignificance

1988 Tor 29 / Track 29

1990 Wiedźmy / Witches

Cast & Crew

director Nicolas Roeg
screenplay Terry Johnson
cinematography Peter Hannan
editing Tony Lawson
music Stanley Myers, Hans Zimmer
cast Theresa Russell, Michael Emil, Tony Curtis, Gary Busey
producer Alexander Stuart, Jeremy Thomas
production Recorded Picture Company, Zenith Entertainment
sales The Festival Agency
language English
colouration colour