Saturday, March 24, 2012
Dead Man (1995)
Starring Johnny Depp, Gary Farmer
Music by Niel Young (for fifteen minutes in Tom Waits's living room one day)
Cameos by everyone who's ever come out of a wazoo
Accountant gets a job and goes from Cleveland to the west coast. In the intervening time the position is filled because the employer is a scumbag. Hijinks of a sort cause him to become a wanted man and he either runs away from numerous hit men or runs towards a more worldly personality.
I watched this movie in a few chunks; and that didn't impact how I think about it. I spent more time than average in thinking about this movie, though; and I want to say that it would play really well as a satire because "satire" would explain the grating music (three chunky electric guitar chords, underscoring themes which needed no further emphasis), the over-the-top direction (set up, muggy reaction shot, rinse, repeat), and the bizarrely annoying editing (fade to black, fade up, small amount of action, fade to black). But it wouldn't explain how there's actual emotional investment in the characters.
It's not a satire, though. It's a serious film. The story is strong and it has a lot of value. The performances fit the story quite well. This is the kind of movie that drove Johnny Depp through the 90s and into the more interesting roles he takes when he's not blinded by the gold bars that Disney throws at him these days. Gary Farmer, as the Injun, kind of steals the whole deal, and there is a full assload of cameos in this movie, from William Hurt through Alfred Molina, with a lot of lingering on Iggy Pop. There are no missteps in the characterizations.
Look: I like Jarmusch in small doses. I even like spikes of Jarmusch along a line which rides nearer to the top. But it can't be at the ceiling the whole time because that gives you a headache.