Dead Man Reviews
In the end, I can't say that I "got it." It seems like Jarmusch is playing with film conventions by defying all that most people expect from Westerns. For example, Natives are treated with the complication and dignity that they deserve. Also, the hero is not a gunslinger but an accountant from Cleveland.
But violating conventions does not a good film make. The music is often annoying, and it seemed like Nobody's final moment on camera was the result of Jarmusch - at the last minute - saying, "Oh, shit, I forgot to wrap up that story line." The best I can say about Dead Man is that it was enjoyable to watch, but the narrative failed to motivate any strong feelings or thoughts.
William Blake: I'm not dead. Am I?
This movie has been referred to as an "acid western." That's about right considering the mix of the period with the views of the Indian.
Johnny Depp stars as William Blake, a man who has traveled on a long train ride from Cleveland to a town called Machine in the mid 1800s. He has come to get a job, but finds its no longer there. Having spent everything just to come to town he is stuck. Soon after, he meets a girl, sleeps with her, her lover breaks in, kills the girl, Blake kills him, gets shot and leaves.
This is the setup for the rest of the film in which an Indian named Nobody finds him in the wilderness and they go on a spiritual journey together.
This is a film that is definitely not for everyone. It is very slowly paced in true Jarmusch style. Its really about thinking while watching. And its fairly long.
Despite this, I was engaged throughout. It has a very solid cast, featuring a number of supporting players, establishes a great relationship between Blake and Nobody, and has a great score by Neil Young.
Marvin (Older Marshall): Your William Blake?
William Blake: Yes, I am. Do you know my poetry?
The film contains one of the most grittily honest views of the old west I have yet to see in a film, and is viewable for that alone.
Thankfully, there are many more reasons to see it. Again, Depp's performance is perhaps the best in his entire career. The dialouge also stands out as particularly well-crafted.
The haunting and repetitive guitar riff keeps you feeling like you are suffering a slow, delusional death. Rarely does a movie start out so clear, and intentionally lower you into a symbolic and hazy world where you feel you went through the cauls of death itself.
Some might say caul of death, but others might merely say it made them sleepy. If you really want to see what direction can do other than thrill, scare, entertain, humor or romanticize... well, this is a movie to explore.