Saturday, January 15, 2011

#162. Dead Man (1995)

DVD Synopsis: A young man in search of a fresh start, William Blake (Johnny Depp), embarks on an exciting journey to a new town…never realizing the danger that lies ahead. But when a heated love triangle ends in double murder, Blake finds himself a wanted man, running scared - until a mysterious loner (Gary Farmer) teaches him to face the dangers that follow a "dead man." With an outstanding supporting cast including Gabriel Byrne (End Of Days, Stigmata) and Robert Mitchum (Cape Fear), and a sizzling soundtrack by Neil Young, Dead Man is another motion picture triumph from filmmaker Jim Jarmusch.

Dead Man is not your typical western, but then I get the feeling it’s the only western director Jim Jarmusch could have possibly made. It is a film of reflective ideology, where the destinies of each of its characters are laid out on an entirely different plane of existence from our own, one influenced, in equal parts, by literature and mysticism. 

Though shot entirely in black and white, the characters that inhabit the world of Dead Man are nonetheless very colorful. Gary Farmer’s Nobody is equally versed in both Native American tradition and English poetry. John Dickinson (Robert Mitchum) is a nasty old guy who spends most of his time talking to the stuffed bear in his office, and the three men whom he hires to track down William Blake (Johnny Depp) are a peculiar crew, to say the least. There is Cole Wilson (Lance Henrikson), a cold-blooded killer who seldom speaks, Conway Twill (Michael Wincott), a gunslinger who never shuts up, and a young man by the name of Johnny Pickett (Eugene Byrd), also known as ‘The Kid’, who doesn’t know what to make of either of his two companions. Jarmusch has given every character in this film a distinctive, engaging personality, and they all, at one point or another, put forth their own view of the world around them.

As the real William Blake once said, “When the doors of perception are cleansed, man will see things as they truly are, infinite”. With Dead Man, director Jarmusch does more than just cleanse these doors: he pushes us straight through them.

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Anthony Lee Collins said...

Two comments:

1) As the DVD blurb mentions, the soundtrack is amazing.

2) Like most early Jarmusch movies, it's really funny. (His later ones, not so much, unfortunately.)

Dave Becker said...


1. I agree. I love the soundtrack to this film (I remember reading Ebert's one and a half star review of the film, and he complained about Neil Young's music. Obviously, I don't agree).

2. It is a funny film. Farmer has some great lines, and the scene with Billy Bob Thornton is outrageously over-the-top.