Jim Jarmusch is often considered the godfather of modern American independent cinema, having reinvented the very concept with his 1984 flick Stranger Than Paradise (which does show up on the list, so I’ll get to it eventually). He has changed and evolved with the times, but retains his signature style of what can only be described as aloofness. Now, granted, Dead Man, from what I’ve heard and found out, is less so than his earlier works, and more a deliberate and exacting treatise on spirituality and the nature of a man’s life, but the eerily off-shooting style of Jarmusch is still very much alive.
First off, don’t be fooled by any screens you find of this film in color (like in the book); the whole film is in black and white, and this is done more for stylistic purposes than for the inexpensive option of B&W film. As I watched the beginning, I noticed Jarmusch has a weird habit of abruptly fading out into black and then cutting back into the film, almost like he is uncertain of just how to start the film so he keeps trying things one after the other. This continued throughout the film, but I quickly adjusted to it and eventually it bothered me none. Jarmusch himself classified this film as a “psychedelic Western”, and really I’m obliged to use that label just for lack of any other way to put this film. He uses what sounds like electric guitar tones for his score, which add to the acid-trip-like feel of the experience. The cast is also a veritable who’s who of actors, far too many to name here, but I found myself recognizing people here and there, all over the film; Jarmusch really got himself one hell of a cast, especially amazing since most of them have minor roles of about 15-20 minutes each, if that.
I was a little stymied when I first started this experience, but as I got further and further along, I suddenly realized I was really liking it. It’s a western unlike any I have ever seen, and thanks to the list I’ve seen a great deal. This was my first Jarmusch film, and boy am I glad to have started off with this one (though it would generally mean there’s nowhere to go but down, but I’m not so pessimistic). Much the opposite of my first von Trier film, this seem to be a very rewarding entry point into Jarmusch’s crazy little world. I could really go on and on about the film, what I thought of it, my interpretations of the plot, and the meaning behind many of the scenes and vignettes the film seems comprised of, but I can’t really put most of it into words. Truly, Jarmusch escapes me, as much as I liked his work here. At the very least, I felt satisfied that this earned its spot on the list; try it, and see if you find this an experience to your own liking.
Arbitrary Rating: 9/10
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