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Insignificance (Criterion) (Blu-Ray)

Gary Busey , Tony Curtis , Nicolas Roeg    R (Restricted)   Blu-ray
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Product Description

Four unnamed people who look and sound a lot like Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio, and Joseph McCarthy converge in one New York City hotel room for this compelling, visually inventive adaptation of Terry Johnson’s play, from director Nicolas Roeg (Walkabout, The Man Who Fell to Earth). With a combination of whimsy and dread, Roeg creates a fun-house-mirror picture of cold war America that questions the nature of celebrity and plays on a society’s simmering nuclear fears. Insignificance is a delirious, intelligent drama, featuring magnetic performances by Michael Emil (Tracks, Always) as “the professor,” Theresa Russell (Bad Timing, Black Widow) as “the actress,” Gary Busey (The Buddy Holly Story, Lethal Weapon) as “the ballplayer,” and Tony Curtis (Sweet Smell of Success, Spartacus) as “the senator.”

DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES • Newly restored digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Nicolas Roeg and producer Jeremy Thomas, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack • New video interviews with Roeg, Thomas, and editor Tony Lawson • Making “Insignificance,” a short documentary shot on the set of the film • Original theatrical trailer • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Chuck Stephens and a reprinted exchange between Roeg and screenwriter Terry Johnson


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:DVD
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The film opens with an establishing shot of the "movie star" (Marilyn Monroe) shooting the most iconic scene of her career: standing over a New York subway grate while waiting for the wind of a passing train to whoosh her skirt up around her ears.
We then follow the "movie star" as she goes shopping while enroute to a clandestine nocturnal visit to "the scientist" (Albert Einstein) to teach him a lesson in relativity.
The best part of this rather bizarre film is the lengthy scene in which Marilyn Monroe (played quite convincingly by Theresa Russell) explains the theory of relativity to Albert Einstein.
Of course the denouement is when we realize that Marilyn doesn't even really understand the complex theory she has so perfectly demonstrated (with toy cars, trains, and flashlights), but that she has only *memorized* her explanation of the theory, as the actress herself would memorize her lines for a film role.
The other characters in the plot are "the senator" (Joe McCarthy of the infamous "McCarthy-era" witch-hunt of the 1950's) and "the ballplayer" (Joe DiMaggio, the "movie star's" husband (NOT Babe Ruth, as described by some idiot in another Amazon review posted here!). These characters serve purpose to bring a dark sub-plot or two to an otherwise unusually entertaining storyline.
Unfortunately, it all turns tragic, and ends mysteriously.
I know nothing about this director's other film work, but this film stands alone as a classic of the bizarre. I have enjoyed it through repeated viewings throughout the years.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth watching at least once Aug. 9 2003
Format:DVD
What if Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe, Babe Ruth and Senator McCarthy were all in the same hotel during the same night, and their lives crossed ? You have to admit you can't go wrong with a premise like that. Unfortunately as much against science as it for science, and a rather anti-progressist ending. It's too bad, because it's a lot of fun.
Worth watching once if only for scenes like Marilyn Monroe demonstrating relativity to Einstein with miniature trains and flashlights, Babe Ruth telling Einstein how many packs of gum he's been featured on, and Monroe dancing with her skirt on fire in the middle of a nuclear explosion (don't ask).
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Feast for the Mind and Eyes March 12 2002
By Duncan Reid - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
Those who say that "The Man Who Fell To Earth" (1976) was Nicolas Roeg's last great movie either have not seen "Insignificance"(1985) or have vastly underestimated it. All the trademarks of a Roeg film are here; surrealism, spectacular visuals and a uniquely intelligent story.The idea that Marilyn Monroe and Albert Einstien had an intimate relationship is explored here with great gusto. Misconceptions about Monroe's intelligence and Einstien's intellectual elitism are shattered here although her baseball player husband(DiMaggio)is what the viewer would expect.The climax is both unpredictable and mind blowing. All in all, Russell and veteran cast are great and Roeg's craftsmanship is uniformly excellent.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Babe, A Brain, A Baseball Legend And A Blackballing Senator Dec 1 2005
By Brian E. Erland - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
In this quirky highly original film director Nicolas Roeg posits the theoretical question, what would happen if Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio and Senator Joe McCarthy were all gathered together in the same hotel room for one evening in 1953?

An eclectic gathering indeed. If it helps you to conceptualize where this film is headed, think of this as an evening of psychotherapy for the rich and famous. Marilyn wants to be loved for her brain, yet continually relies on her sex appeal for attention. Her husband and sports legend Joe DiMaggio wants to express his deep feelings of love for his wife but can't seem to express himself without a pack of baseball cards in his hand. Meanwhile Senator Joe McCarthy is busy scowling and perfusely sweating as he continues a campaign of threats and intimidation against everyone in the room.

Einstein's quiet evening alone has definitely taken an unexpected turn. Between the emotional angst displayed by the vulnerable sex kitten, the inept attempt at reconcillation by her superstar husband and the politics of fear levied by the Senator, the usually aloof, unattached scientist finds himself in an environment beyond his control, even for one of his mental capabilities. It turns out to be an evening of personal discovery for all involved.

'Insignificance' is really a mixed bag, one of those films you either get it or you don't. Not by any means a great movie, but it has its moments, the best moment being Marilyn's attempt to impress Dr. Einstein by explaining his theory of relativity using toy trains and flashlights as props. Very cute, thank you Theresa Russell!

This may not be a film that would stand up well to alot of repeat viewings but worth a viewing nonetheless. Starring; Michael Emil as Albert Einstein, Theresa Russell as Marilyn Monroe, Gary Busey as Joe DiMaggio and Tony Curtis as Joe McCarthy.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Roeg's Last Great Film Dec 13 2009
By J. E. Nelson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
CONTAINS A FEW SPOILERS. While "Two Deaths" (1995) showed a few flashes of the directorial brilliance that seemed to come so easily to Nicholas Roeg between the early seventies and the mid-eighties, I would argue that "Insignificance" was his last great film. Roeg was not a writer, but he managed to put his unique stamp on nearly every film he directed between his mesmerizing solo directing debut, "Walkabout" (he was co-director on "Performance" prior to that), and this allegorical gem, "Insignificance." This film followed by two years Roeg's underrated "Eureka," a film which baffled the suits at MGM/UA, and was not released until a couple years after it was completed. "Insignificance," with a script adapted by Terry Johnson from his stage play, was a more low budget film than "Eureka," and, to paraphrase another interesting director, Whit Stillman, when a lot of dollars are involved your movie is more likely to get sabotaged by "jerks." I can't decide myself if Theresa Russell's portrayal of "the actress" in this film is the high water mark of her career, or if that came in 1981 in "Bad Timing: a Sensual Obsession," her first collaboration with Roeg, whose wife she had become by the time "Insignificance" was shot. I had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Russell in 1981, during her promotional tour for "Bad Timing," and she told me at the time she considered her work opposite Dustin Hoffman in "Straight Time" the acting she was most proud of to that point in her career. But to "Insignificance" itself, this is a movie I find fascinating, but which I'm sure some would find utterly pretentious. What saves it from that charge is the humor that runs through this film, despite the seriousness of the subject matter: the unleashing of atomic weapons, communist witch-hunts, and, while it may see of lesser importance, the nature and burdens of celebrity and having to live up to some manufactured image of oneself. The rest of the cast is uniformly excellent. It is appropriate that Tony Curtis, at least lately a decidedly right wing, anti-gay activist who campaigned against "Brokeback Mountain getting Best Picture, is cast as "the senator," who is obviously meant to be Joe McCarthy. Curtis, a fine actor, brings some of the smarmy charm of his character from "Sweet Smell of Success" to this film as well, albeit a charm filtered through an alcoholic haze. Gary Busey is perfect as the famous former baseball player, who realizes his glory days are gone, and that he will forever live in the shadow of his wife's greater fame. And Michael Emil, so good in a number of his brother, Henry Jaglom's quirky low budget films ("Sitting Ducks," "Always") is fine as "the professor," who has come urge the US government to not use his great discovery for additional destructive purposes, but to use it to promote peace--a position for which the senator has no sympathy. The scene in which Russel, as the actress, demonstrates her understanding of the professor's theory of relativity using a toy train set is not to be missed. Roeg never made a film this interesting again. After a few attempts at films of substance, such as the failed "Track 29," derailed by a weak script, Roeg signed on to direct more mainstream fare. Some like "The Witches" were at least competent and entertaining films. Others, like the TV mini series "Samson and Delilah," seem beneath him. In the end, Roeg was the victim of the passing of the time of the powerful director in commercial film making. Some of the strong (and/or commercially successful) still survive, but many, like Roeg, have had to abandon the adventurous path of their earlier films in order to maintain a viable, or semi-viable career.
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Significant Dec 28 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
One of my all time favorite films. Thought provoking. Insignificance reminds us that we are part of a much larger picture. How something that may seem like a minor incident to one person is a major occurrence to another. Guess it goes back to that Native American saying about not judging (or assuming about) another person until you walk a mile in there moccassins.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Burden of "Celebrity" June 23 2011
By Michael B. Druxman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
I've never been a fan of director Nicolas Roeg.

I prefer straightforward storytelling in my movies and his work is just too cryptic and experimental for my taste.

Nevertheless, even aside from Roeg's kaleidoscopic images, I'm not quite sure I get the complete message that screenwriter Terry Johnson is trying to put across in INSIGNIFICANCE, an adaptation of his stage play that deals with a fictional meeting between 1950s icons Marilyn Monroe (Theresa Russell), Albert Einstein (Michael Emil), Joe DiMaggio (Gary Busey) and Senator Joseph McCarthy (Tony Curtis), none of whom are specifically identified in the film.

Perhaps the movie is about the burden of "celebrity," or the fact that "knowledge is not necessarily truth," or maybe it's about those ideas and a few others. Certainly there are many different thoughts tossed about in the picture's 108 minute running time.

Einstein, played by Emil with a childlike innocence, and Monroe are the central figures in the piece, and the scene in which she uses flashlights and various toys to explain to him his "theory of relativity" is a delight. Also memorable is a scene with the scientist and the DiMaggio character where the great athlete justifies his "celebrity" with the fact that he was featured in 13 series of bubblegum baseball cards.

Busey is marvelous as DiMaggio, as is Ms. Russell in capturing the persona of Monroe. Indeed, all of the actors shine in their individual roles. It is their performances, as well as many of the well-written scenes from the original stage play, rather than Roeg's flair for "opening up" the action, that make INSIGNIFICANCE worth watching.

Among the extras in The Criterion Collection edition of the 1985 film are recent interviews with Roeg, his producer (Jeremy Thomas) and the film's editor (Tony Lawson). There is also a vintage "Making of" featurette and a 26-page booklet filled with essays about the picture.

© Michael B. Druxman
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