Film retrospective includes movies with Jagger, Bowie… and Garfunkel

Stand-ins for Albert Einstein and Marilyn Monroe discuss the theory of relativity in Nicolas Roeg’s 1985 movie Insignificance.

“All you’re doing in a film really is saying: this is what, and how, I think — is there anybody out there?”—Nicolas Roeg

This year, one of England’s most eclectic, controversial film directors turns 90.

To celebrate, the Cinematheque (1131 Howe St.) is presenting Out There: The Visionary Cinema of Nicolas Roeg. From Feb. 17 – March 4, the retrospective will screen several of the director’s films, many in 35mm prints. The slate includes his best-known works, such as Performance (starring Mick Jagger), Don’t Look Now (featuring one of the most famous sex scenes in cinematic history), The Witches (based on a Roald Dahl novel, and starring Angelica Huston) The Man Who Fell to Earth (with David Bowie as an alien).

But there are also some lesser-known Roeg works in the retrospective. Below is a look at those films, including Insignificance, Walkabout, Eureka and The Witches. (Click on film titles for trailers.)

Walkabout (1971)— This 1971 British-Australian is a survival film set in the Australian outback. It stars Jenny Agutter (Logan’s Run) as one of two white schoolchildren who are left to fend for themselves until they meet a teenage Aboriginal boy. On release, the movie received positive reviews. Roeg was nominated for the Palme d’Or for the movie at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival. Commenting on the film in 1998, Roeg described it as: “…a simple story about life and being alive, not covered with sophistry but addressing the most basic human themes; birth, death, mutability.” Today, the film holds a score of 93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

David Gulpilil, Jenny Agutter and Luc Roeg in Walkabout (1971).

Bad Timing (1980)—This psychological thriller focuses on the relationship between an American woman (Theresa Russell) and a psychology professor (singer Art Garfunkel, in one of his few movie roles). Set in Vienna, the story is told through nonlinear flashbacks as a detective investigates the woman’s apparent suicide attempt. The film’s own distributor called it “a sick film made by sick people for sick people,” and the movie received an X rating in the U.S. It also received mixed reviews, although it was given the People’s Choice Award at the 1980 Toronto Festival of Festivals and the London Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director.

Eureka (1983)—Loosely based on the true murder of an American-born gold miner owner in the Bahamas in 1943, Eureka stars Gene Hackman, Roeg favourite Theresa Russell, and Rutger Hauer. Joe Pesci and Mickey Rourke also star. Film critic Mark Cousins put Eureka in his top ten favourite films in the Sight & Sound Greatest Films poll 2012 and has called the film a “masterpiece”. Trainspotting director Danny Boyle classified this film as underrated.

Insignificance (1985)—Adapted by Terry Johnson from his play of the same name, Insignificance is set in 1954. Most of the action takes place in a New York City hotel room, where four characters come together. The characters represent iconic figures of the era—Marilyn Monroe, Joseph McCarthy, Joe DiMaggio, and Albert Einstein (referred to in the movie/play as The Actress, The Senator, The Ballplayer, and The Professor). Insignificance received mostly positive reviews at the time of its release, and currently has a 73 percent score at Rotten Tomatoes. The film was nominated for the Palme d’Or and won the Technical Grand Prize at the 1985 Cannes Film Festival.

Note: As part of opening night (Feb. 17) festivities, the theatre is screening Don’t Look Now and The Man Who Fell to Earth. Refreshments and a programmer’s introduction will also be included.

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