Queue Total

284 MOVIES (released titles only)

Note: Real spoilers are in black text on a black background. Highlight the black areas to read the spoilers.

Queue Numbers

#50- Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

#100- Black Swan

#200- Mysteries of Lisbon

Last- Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Dead Man

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.

It all comes down to the hammer, though, and that's always been my problem with Jarmusch (It is, in fact, why Leila was excused from watching this).  He needs to dial it back, just a little, from 12 down to 7 or 8.  The first ten minutes of this movie are Johnny Depp reacting to oddballs in the train as it progresses west.  We get it.  He's out of his element. We also get it as he becomes more accustomed to what he has to do to survive as the story moves along, under the same fucking chords.  And we would have gotten the ending if it had gone to credits 30 seconds earlier.  Such a simple choice as that would have shown the whole thing in a different light, possibly letting the beauty of the story be the final message rather than the hammer of the director.

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.

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