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‘Rebel’ director Hopkins ambushes the norm

He’s an Oscar-winning actor with roles such as serial killer Hannibal Lecter, but at 69, Anthony Hopkins said he has arrived at a new, rebellious stage of life directing low-budget art films.
/ Source: Reuters

He’s an Oscar-winning actor with roles such as serial killer Hannibal Lecter, but at 69, Anthony Hopkins said he has arrived at a new, rebellious stage of life directing low-budget art films.

Hopkins’ “Slipstream,” which premiered this weekend at the Sundance Film Festival, marks the veteran actor’s debut as a filmmaker and is part of a new edition to Sundance called “New Frontier,” where video art and cinema collide.

“Yeah, I’m a rebel. I want to poke people, not to cause pain, but just make people wake up,” Hopkins said late Sunday. “I feel I’ve arrived. I feel I’m starting anew. ... I got a feeling I can be a guerrilla movie director.”

Hopkins said that he has long admired directors who took chances with their films such as John Cassavetes, Roman Polanski, Oliver Stone and Quentin Tarantino. They are directors, he said, who like to mix things up and “upset the apple cart” of mainstream moviemaking.

“Slipstream” puts a new spin on storytelling technique. The film tells of a Hollywood screenwriter, Felix Bonhoffer (played by Hopkins), who begins to confuse his own life with those of the characters he creates on the page.

Audiences are taken on a journey through Bonhoffer’s mind to see historical events such as the Vietnam War that have shaped his thinking and, as a result, the thinking of his screenplay’s characters.

Current events in Bonhoffer’s life, such as getting pulled over by a police officer, begin to bleed over into his writing, and audiences are never quite sure — until the end — what is reality and what are simply Bonhoffer’s thoughts and emotions.

Hopkins said he wrote “Slipstream” to challenge audiences to consider the nature of time and space, and how human ideas can manifest themselves in reality.

“Slipstream” is not an easy film to figure out because it alternates between present day and history and between what is real and fictional.

“I was really interested in breaking all the rules of cinema,” Hopkins said.

At the “Slipstream” premiere in front of a packed audience at Sundance, festival director Geoff Gilmore told audiences, “It is rare that you get to see a real work of art” on film.

But Hopkins’ “Slipstream” is not the only film and video art being showcased at the top U.S. film festival, backed by Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute for filmmaking.

Joining him in the New Frontier is “Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait,” in which directors Philippe Parreno and Douglas Gordon used 17 cameras to track soccer player Zinedine Zidane through one 90-minute match. The film is more than a sports movie as it attempts to show Zidane’s state of mind, memory and sensory perception.

The festival also is sponsoring a video art installation it calls the “Rabbit Hole” of the New Frontier. In one of the pieces, called “Academy,” filmmaker Luke Dubois uses digital technology to condense all 75 Oscar-winning films into one minute each while retaining every original frame.

“Artists have always taken advantage of the highest forms of technology,” Dubois said.

In “Slipstream,” Hopkins too uses quick editing and digital technology to help speed audiences to the conclusion of his nearly two-hour film.

“I was always fascinated with way you can twist everything around and reshape it,” he said.