Slipstream (2007)Reviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 10/26/07 18:49:26
(Worth A Look)
I am not exactly sure what kind of movie that people who pay to go see “Slipstream” will have in mind as they enter the theater, but I can almost certainly assure them right now that no matter what those expectations might be, this film will thoroughly and completely defy them. A deeply personal project for Anthony Hopkins–in addition to acting in it, he also wrote, directed and even composed the score–this is the kind of head-scratcher movie that makes “Inland Empire” look lucid by comparison. This is not a criticism, mind you, but a simple observation.To describe the plot of “Slipstream” would be an act of the greatest futility–this is the kind of movie that, depending on your particular point-of-view, contains either far too much plot for its own good or not nearly enough. In it, Hopkins plays Felix Bonheffer, a screenwriter who seems to be at odds with both the past that he has lived through (represented by flashbacks to such luminaries as Hitler and Nixon, two historical figures that, perhaps not coincidentally, have been portrayed in the past by Hopkins) and the present that he is currently enduring, a noisy and chaotic mess in which insipid New Age platitudes go hand-in-hand with freeway shootings. He is snapped out of his reverie by an emergency–the production of his latest screenplay, a noir-type drama called “Slipstream,” has been shut down in the wake of the sudden death of the film’s star (Christian Slater) until Felix can rewrite things to cover his absence. As he works on it, he begins to have a series of strange encounters with his fictional characters in the flesh–of course, it may be even more disconcerting for the characters when you consider the fact that Felix quite literally is their god and single-handedly controls their fate. Of course, there is also the suggestion that Felix may have actually lost his mind and that these elements are symbols of his complete break with reality.
Because it is deliberately, almost defiantly, surreal in tone and because it does involve moviemaking as part of its storyline, some of the early reviews of “Slipstream” have compared it to the works of David Lynch and Dennis Potter with a healthy scoop of “Adaptation” tossed in for good measure. While I can see how these comparisons can be made, I think that to do so is just a little too easy and glib. From a stylistic viewpoint, what “Slipstream” really reminded me of the most is one of those epic-length Bob Dylan songs that are admittedly short on narrative cohesion but long on densely packed imagery and ideas. Like those songs, “Slipstream” doesn’t easily subscribe to one all-encompassing explanation and while I may have no idea as to what Hopkins may have been trying to convey at any given time (when I spoke to Hopkins before he screened the film at the Chicago International Film Festival, he admitted that even he wasn’t entirely sure what it was all about in the end), I have to admit that I had a lot of fun letting all of the pieces rattle around in my brain for a while.
Of course, many potential viewers will be so taken aback by the off-beat stylistic approach that Hopkins has utilized here that they may find themselves running for the exits long before the narrative complexities have a chance to begin. Right from the start, Hopkins establishes a wild and cheerfully abrasive structure by offering up the kind of anything-goes editing pattern of the kind that Oliver Stone utilized in “Natural Born Killers.” There is noise everywhere, individual moments are suddenly interrupted in mid-stream, others just as suddenly re-established while still others are repeated and remixed in the manner of a rap DJ scratching a record. Again, I have no idea what all of it means or even what any of it means but the sheer headlong energy that it creates is oddly invigorating. It is kind of strange to realize that a man who is at the age where the lifetime achievement honors begin coming in has made a film that could easily fit in with the programming of your average underground film festival.“Slipstream” is not a film for most viewers–in fact, I can pretty much guarantee that of the few people reading this that will actually go out and see it, most of you will walk away from it feeling either confused or annoyed. I understand that reaction completely and yet, there is a part of me that has a genuine feeling of affection for the film. Look, if Anthony Hopkins wanted to, he could easily spend the rest of his career making one anonymous blockbuster after another and if he wanted to direct a film, he could have done some twee little project that would be bland and inoffensive enough to score a decent-sized release from some studio hoping to cash in on the cachet surrounding his name. Instead, he chose to take a chance on this extraordinarily freaky labor of love and while he may not understand every single thing that he put in it, I bet he doesn’t regret a single thing about it. It is in that spirit that I enjoyed “Slipstream” and if you an adventurous enough moviegoer yourself, I think that you might as well.
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