Sunday, August 16, 2020
Directed by Nicolas Roeg and written by Terry Johnson that is based on the play by the latter, Insignificance is the story of a meeting between four famous figures in a hotel room in New York City in the year 1954 as they all deal with fame and such. The film is an exploration of four famous people who deal with their own celebrity as none of them are named by who they are as they all talk about their own world inside a hotel room. Starring Gary Busey, Michael Emil, Theresa Russell, Will Sampson, Patrick Kilpatrick, and Tony Curtis. Insignificance is a rapturous and enthralling film from Nicolas Roeg.
Set during a day at a hotel in New York City in 1954, the film revolves around four iconic figures who all meet at a hotel room as they all discuss themselves and their contributions to the world. It’s a film with a simple premise as it revolve around these four people as they would all meet at the hotel room of one of the film’s protagonists in the Professor (Michael Emil). Terry Johnson’s screenplay play into this period that spans nearly 24 hours as it has the Professor going over notes as he would meet with the Senator (Tony Curtis) while the Actress (Theresa Russell) is making a movie while her husband in the Ballplayer (Gary Busey) watches with disdain. Later on as the Senator goes into his room at the hotel after a discussion with the Professor doesn’t go well as he planned. The Actress would meet the Professor as it would lead to discussions of existence as the Ballplayer and the Senator would later join in as the script has these four characters plus an elevator attendant known as the Indian (Will Sampson) be part of this sociological experience on existence.
Nicolas Roeg’s direction is definitely stylish in the fact that much of the action takes place inside a hotel and a hotel room as much of the film is shot inside a studio soundstage in Wembley. While there are some exterior shots of New York City, the film is more about four people often engaging in conversations in a hotel room with recurring flashbacks appearing every now and then as it play to these people and who they are. There are some wide shots in the film including in a few of the locations as it relates to some of the flashbacks that the Professor is thinking about that also include these dark images as it relates to his own guilt. Much of Roeg’s direction is intimate in its usage of medium shots and close-ups to get the characters to talk with one another as there’s also a lot of close-ups relating to the Actress and her beauty that also feature flashbacks of how she became this icon through extreme close-ups of her ass and breasts.
There are also a lot of symbolism in the imagery whether it’s the Actress in how she’s seen by the world or images of clocks and watches as it relates to time where the Professor carries a stopwatch with the time 8:15 as if it means something. Roeg also maintains this air of tension once the Ballplayer appears at the Professor’s room while there are also these chilling images of the Actress dealing with her insecurities. Even as she is trying to prove that she’s not this dim-witted beauty as she does know things yet her husband doesn’t get it as he’s kind of a raging buffoon who does mean well. It also play into this air of foreshadowing and the growing sense of fear in all four of these characters whether it’s from their past or what is to come. Most notably its ending as it relates to time and the guilt that looms from the Professor into what he’s created as well as what the Senator wanted from him and the Ballplayer pleading to have another chance with the Actress. Overall, Roeg creates a provocative yet captivating film about four popular figures in the 1950s meeting in a hotel to deal with their fame and the world around them.
Cinematographer Peter Hannan does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its stylish usage of lighting and shadows for the scenes in the hotel room along with the way a bar is lit and the streets at night as it is a highlight of the film. Editor Tony Lawson does excellent work with the editing as it help play into the drama and emotional suspense as well as the stylish usage of jump cuts for some of the flashback scenes. Production designer David Brockhurst, with art directors Arthur Max and Celia Barnett, does amazing work with the look of the hotel room and other interiors as well as the bar and a few of the exteriors in the film. Costume designer Shauna Harwood does fantastic work with the costume from the suits that the Senator and the Ballplayer wear as well as the sweatshirt that the Professor wears and the white dress that the Actress wears.
Hair stylist Jan Archibald and makeup designer Christine Beveridge do terrific work with the look of the Professor with his hair and the Actress with her platinum blonde hair. The special effects work of Alan Whibley is wonderful for the film’s end sequence as it play into the horrors and fears of the characters involved in the film. The sound work of Paul LeMare is superb for the way things sound in and out of the hotel room as well as the sounds of things happening in the hallway and in some of the exterior settings outside of the hotel. The film’s music by Stanley Myers and Hans Zimmer is incredible for its mixture of jazz, lush orchestral music, hip-hop, and electronics to play into the sense of chaos and drama that occurs throughout the film that also features a soundtrack of music ranging from jazz, blues, and country that are performed by Roy Orbison, the trio of Will Jennings, Glenn Gregory, and Claudia Brucken on a song, and Theresa Russell.
The casting by Lucy Boulting and Margery Simkin is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Patrick Kilpatrick as the Actress’ driver, Raynor Scheine as an autograph hunter, and Will Sampson in a fantastic performance as the elevator attendant known as the Indian who is often in the elevator meeting the protagonists and have brief conversations with them while observing everything they’re thinking about. Gary Busey is excellent as the Ballplayer as a man driven with envy for his wife while trying to understand what she wants as he’s also a man with some knowledge despite the fact that he is a bit of buffoon that means well yet knows a lot about baseball. Tony Curtis is brilliant as the Senator as a man trying to uphold some idea of law and order as well as get some documents from the Professor and have him testify or else the Professor gets in trouble as Curtis brings a charm and a devious approach to the character.
Michael Emil is amazing as the Professor as a man trying to come up with answers about existence and the shape of the universe while dealing with his pasts and the horrors of what he had created as it would haunt him as he’s also looking at his stopwatch. Finally, there’s Theresa Russell in a phenomenal performance as the Actress as this woman who exudes immense beauty but is also insecure yet curious about the ideas of existence and the universe as Russell has this charm and exuberance in her character as well as selling the chaos that is her emotions as it is a career-defining performance from Russell.
Insignificance is a tremendous film from Nicolas Roeg. Featuring a great ensemble cast, dazzling visuals, studies of fame and existence through these famous cultural figures of the 1950s, incredible art direction, and a sumptuous music score. The film is definitely a unique look into the world from the viewpoint of four famous figures along with the events that haunt them. In the end, Insignificance is a spectacular film from Nicolas Roeg.
Nicolas Roeg Films: Performance - Walkabout - (Glastonbury Fayre) – Don't Look Now - The Man Who Fell to Earth - (Bad Timing) – (Eureka) – (Castaway) – (Aria-Un ballo in maschera) – (Track 29) – (The Witches (1990 film)) – (Heart of Darkness (1993 film)) – (Two Deaths) – (Full Body Massage) – (Samson and Delilah) – (Puffball)
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