Insignificance (1985)

Insignificance (1985), directed by Nicolas Roeg.

Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio and Senator Joe McCarthy check into a hotel...

That's the irresistible setup, although we call these characters the Professor, the Actress, the Ballplayer, and the Senator. What to do with them? That's a different problem. Roeg doesn't determine meanings for his audience, that's our job. So the film itself may seem erratic and diffuse in message. Often funny, sometimes not.

I suspect most viewers will ponder the meaning of celebrity: all of these people are famous and significant in certain ways, but insignificant in others.

Our cast:

It ends with NYC blown up by the Bomb, and the Actress burning for what seems like an excessively long time. Then it is undone and all is well. Moral: don't start a nuclear war because that would mean killing Marilyn Monroe.

She reassures the Professor that the war won't happen because: "The guys with their finger on the button also own everything. Why would they blow it up? Unless someone invents a bomb that kills people without wrecking the stuff". This last is a glancing reference to the Neutron Bomb, a big deal at the time.

Theresa Russell gets the most screen time, which is fine. She and the director were married and he obviously likes photographing her.

Finally, we have Will Sampson -- last seen in The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) -- as the mysterious Elevator Attendant, a uniformed Cherokee in the city. The Professor: "I heard that a Cherokee believe that wherever he is, that's the center of the universe." Elevator Attendant: "You're the Cherokee". Then up to the roof to greet the new day.

Criterion Blu-ray.