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Slipstream Dream

Year: 2005
Production Co: Strand Releasing
Director: Anthony Hopkins
Producer: Stella Arroyave
Writer: Anthony Hopkins
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Stella Arroyave, hristian Slater, Jeffrey Tambor, John Turturro, Michael Clarke Duncan, Christopher Lawford
I should have hated everything about this movie. It's got the sort of story I can't stand, where nothing's makes any sense and isn't explained, but which many of the world's most revered filmmakers love.

You never know when you're in fantasy, reality, a dream or a movie. You never know what's real. You never know what the point is, and you never know how it really ends up. You don't know if it's all a dream, despite - as many forum posts have said - the almost subliminal appearance of the word 'dream' after the sparse opening credits.

But something about it really grabbed me. The performances? The characters? Certainly not the story, which was incomprehensible. It's all Hopkins' secret.

He plays ageing screenwriter Felix, called to the desert shoot of a movie for urgent rewrites after one of the major cast members (Slater, playing a scary gangster) unexpectedly dies.

That's the part we're reasonably sure of. The rest of it involves an LA bar where a bouncer (Duncan) and waitress (Arroyave) are friends, and where he's taken prisoner by the scary gangster who shows up in the back of his car, drives him out to the desert and brutally dispatches him. So it's obviously in the movie. Except that Felix sees the car with the body in it when he comes to the set.

Then there's the director with absolutely no control, his strings being pulled by a manic, abusive producer (Turturro) who lends the film it's funniest scenes.

The waitress at the bar, however, might be Felix's real-life wife. And his vacuous friend Lily might be a figment of his imagination, or the screenplay he's struggling with. The dead bouncer - supposedly a character from the movie - visits him in the middle of the night, and there are constant allusions to a terrible accident where either a make-up lady from the shoot or Felix himself is hit by a car and killed. Kevin McCarthy from Invasion of the Body Snatchers shows up to join Felix on his drive into the desert, and a mother and daughter with an ambivalent relationship plan a road trip to Las Vegas.

Maybe he's simply gone insane and can't tell the difference between his script and real life. Maybe everything that happens is what goes through his head in the split second before he dies. Maybe he's already dead and maybe it's a dream.

Hopkins enmeshes cinema references, the flavour and texture of LA and California, mind-numbing connections you'd need a piece of paper and pen to work out and a pacing and style all its own. There's criticism that it's the same as a lot of other films from Jacob's Ladder to Stay, but if you think you know Anthony Hopkins' work, think again.

It's a side to him we've never seen, far from the slightly hammy actor who lends authoritative gravity to films from Beowulf to Fracture. He's always been drawn to commercial work that's slightly on the thematically and creatively flabby side, but this is right up there with the weirdest of David Lynch.

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