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Insignificance (The Criterion Collection)

18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.”

Special 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

Product Details

  • Actors: Michael Emil, Theresa Russell, Tony Curtis, Gary Busey
  • Directors: Nicolas Roeg
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: June 14, 2011
  • Run Time: 108 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004S8021W
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #87,768 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Insignificance (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Duncan Reid on March 12, 2002
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.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Brian E. Erland HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on December 1, 2005
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.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By J. E. Nelson on December 13, 2009
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.Read more ›
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Michael B. Druxman on June 23, 2011
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.
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