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INSIGNIFICANCE

UK, 1985 (MIFF 1985)

Director: Nicolas Roeg

1953. New York hotel room. Sweaty summer night. A professor has been summoned to the Big Apple to testify in the communist witch hunt hearings. He meets a slightly daffy actress with an exceedingly daffy explanation of the theory of relativity. Her husband, a baseball player, tries to separate their coy, platonic relationship, but he is squeezed out of the action by an insidious right-wing senator who hopes to steal the professor's important scientific discoveries. And then there is the very big Cherokee Indian in the hotel lift, pretending to be an attendant...

These thinly disguised portrayals suggest Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio, and very possibly, Joe McCarthy, as role models for a bizarre, thought-provoking comedy, set against the horrors of Hiroshima and the politics of the Cold War. Nicolas Roeg"s skilful and typically powerful direction translates Terry Johnson's script (from his own stage play) to the screen without losing any of the power of the original text. The cast all produce fine performances, but Will Sampson, given the minor role as the Cherokee elevator attendant, nearly steals the film when he greets a New York dawn with a full blooded Indian chant - suddenly the claustrophobic machinations of the hotel set become a microcosm of the outside world.

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