If consummate thespian Anthony Hopkins downplays, even dismisses, discussions about the “craft” of acting, then Slipstream, only the second film he’s directed, betrays evidence that it’s a subject to which he’s nevertheless given a lot of thought.
Stylistically (bi)polar to the polished productions in which he performs (most famously as Hannibal Lecter, mostly recently in Fracture and in the upcoming Beowulf ), this impressionistic indie employs all the visual and narrative trickery of experimental film—flashing words across the screen for a single frame; inserting images of Hitler, Vietnam and the atomic bomb; jumping the line; leaping in time; repeating lines of dialogue and whole scenes; incorporating footage from Invasion of the Body Snatchers ; changing a Corvette’s color from pink to yellow to blue; shifting daylight shot-to-shot; scoring nonsensically non-diegetic sounds.
The film’s stream-of-consciousness does settle down, relieving a difficult and at times even tedious viewing experience. Just as it does, the players—Hopkins, his wife and producer Stella Arroyave, Christian Slater, John Turturro, Michael Clarke Duncan, Camryn Manheim and Jeffrey Tambor, among others—break character to reveal that most of what we’ve seen to this point is an illusion. We’re on the set of a film—Western meets noir—spiraling out of control in the Mojave Desert. Lending to the fantasy-reality crossover is the casting of Gavin Grazer, brother of Brian, as himself/a hapless director working in the shadow of a famous sibling producer, and the appearance of Kevin McCarthy, the now 93-year-old star of Body Snatchers.
The screenwriter of the doomed production is Felix Bonhoeffer (Hopkins, who also scripted and composed the score). Unbeknownst to him, his heart is about to give out, and, as he drifts in and out of first sleep then comatose, his characters infiltrate his consciousness and he their reality. (They become particularly perturbed when he starts killing them off.) Themes of mortality are clearly at work here, but so are celebrity (flashbulbs pop, and a starlet finds fame when an incident of road rage is broadcast on the evening news), writing, acting and the art of filmmaking itself.
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Stella Arroyave, Christian Slater, John Turturro, Michael Clark Duncan, Camryn Manheim, Jeffrey Tambor, S. Epatha Merkerson, Fionnula Flanagan, Michael Lerner, Christopher Lawford, Lisa Pepper, Gavin Grazer, Aaron Tucker, Lana Antonva and Kevin McCarthy
Director/Screenwriter: Anthony Hopkins
Producers: Stella Arroyave and Robert Katz
Rating: R for language and some violent images
Running time: 96 min.
Release date: October 26, 2007 NY/LA/Chi