"INSIGNIFICANCE" contemplates its own navel and gets lost in the lint. It asks who we are, what we are and, also, what time is it.
Like the PBS series "Meeting of the Minds," the movie rearranges the past, putting unlikely people in the same place at the same time. Allegorical versions of Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio, Sen. Joe McCarthy and Albert Einstein get together to discuss their relativity in the professor's hotel room on a dog of a night in March 1954.
They conclude that time is irrelevant when you're not having fun; that fame is fleeting; that it's getting later than you think, and so on. Occasionally the stream of consciousness runs into the space-time continuum, causing an atomic blast to blow the curtains of the room.
Nicolas Roeg directs this self-indulgent adaptation of Terry Johnson's British farce, sometimes flashing on a second landscape of twisted Timexes, pocketwatches and broken clocks. What ponderous tick-tocks.
Yet Roeg works well with his diverse cast, from Tony Curtis as the smarmy McCarthy character to Gary Busey, moving as a hulking, has-been ballplayer who still hears the cheers in his head and the crack of the bat when he broods in a bar under nude pin-ups of his wife.
Theresa Russell is the charming Marilyn knock-off, pouty, bright and disturbed behind dark glasses. The movie opens on the famous subway grate scene. Her skirt blows over her ears, like a mushroom cloud. The crowd gasps at the aftershock when the bombshell goes off. A crew member holding the airhose looks up and claims to have seen the face of God.
Later that night, mythical Marilyn visits allegorical Einstein in his room, launching into a philosophical discussion on how she's just spent four hours of her life having her skirt blown up around her ears.
She explains the theory of relativity to him and he shows her his legs. He's a precocious gnome of a nuclear physicist who dodders about benignly and rather banally as played by Michael Emil. If we learn nothing else from this exercise, it's good to know that Einstein had good legs.