Dead Man (1995)
Genre: Adventure Crime Drama Western (USA, Germany, Japan)
Starring: Johnny Depp (Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride), Gary Farmer (The Score)
Directed By: Jim Jarmusch (Mystery Train, Broken Flowers)
Overview: An accountant from Cleveland moves out to the Wild West. When he shoots a man, he ends up on the run where an Indian named Nobody nurtures him back to health.
Acting: Johnny Effin' Depp, sure he's had his misses (Cry-Baby, Nick Of Time) but I haven't seen any of them, and my record is still clean. That having been said, you know this guy makes wicked awesome films, and Jarmusch is perfect at guiding them along. After this, Gary Farmer is one of my new favorite native actors, and he's been in quite a bit. Add the likes of Iggy Pop, Crispin Glover, Billy-Bob Thornton, Lance Henriksen, John Hurt, Gabriel Byrne and Michael Wincott, and we prove that this is a director who not only can wrangle up some good talent, but keep them reins tight.
Cinematography: Filmed in glorious black and white, you'll appreciate the way the old West seems more real this way, almost like looking at an old picture. Besides having the costumes just right and the wilderness as impressive as ever, we have some pretty cool action and some intense cinematic style that frankly makes me wonder why he didn't do this sort of thing more often. The best Jarmusch film out there for the visuals that I've seen so far.
Script: "That weapon will replace your tongue. You will learn to speak through it. And your poetry will now be written with blood."
This movie is full of awesome stuff like this. Not only is this filled with both literal and figurative poetry, but I was genuinely astounded at the depth of understanding I had for each character. Writers would do well in learning the lesson of how to create characters that become richer with every word, rather than scenes that simply banter their way to the end. .
Plot: The simplest stories can be the strongest. This is not some twist-rich story full of intrigue and double-crosses. It's the common story about a man who commits himself to a new life, when right away happenstance interferes. His meek character must change quickly in the face of these harsh challenges that he faces, but they aren't insurmountable. It's one man against the limited few that chase him. It's brilliant in its simplicity, as rather than bogging us down with events, we can focus on character. It's great.
Mood: The opening scene on the train shows our hero amongst wild men. We learn before he even arrives that his transformation must be quick. Stepping off the train we see his astounded by the muddy filth of the streets, the sinful filth of the rugged men that surround him. The realistic style of the fights he gets into and the almost supernatural way he adapts to the changes are what make this film so great. Add to this the chiaroscuro style of filming and we have the entire gamete of art covered, creating a deep and meaningful film, as well as a comment on our darker history.
Overall Rating: 92% (Knocks You Flat On Your Ass)
Aftertaste: I have no idea what happened to Jim Jarmusch in the four years between Night On Earth and this. It's like he became an entirely different director. From two films about short stories with very little plot, to this deep tale of fate, rebirth, and spirituality. I have two more films to watch of his to complete my study of his works, and after having seen this and Ghost Dog, I'll tell you I'm completely stoked.
This post is part of the Jim Jarmusch Blog-A-Thon. For a complete list, visit Sujewa.