Sunday, January 01, 2006

Broken Flowers

Jim Jarmusch is a Genius.

He's one of those unique voices in art that can round up the most talented artists in the business, pay them nothing, give them a script written on diner store napkins, work them like a mule, and then get thanked by those same artists, for allowing himself to be in their presence.

He's also the kind of Director that could make observing dirt blowing on an empty road seem like the most profound event of the century. In other words he can make art out of nothing.

One would think that makes the guy pretty powerful in Hollywood. But I'm sure he doesn't think of himself as all that, if he did he could be turning out movies every week in order to make money. But something tells me he's not into storytelling for the money. The guy is an artist, which is why actors want to work with him so badly.

I remember a story about how he casted Robert Benigni in Down By Law. Apparently he, and Benigni were judges in a film festival, and being the only smokers in the group, between screenings they would go out, and smoke a cigarettes together. The problem was they didn't know each other's languages. Apparently for some extended amount of time they talked to one another in broken French, which they both knew very little of, and with absurd hand and body gestures.


Based on those short encounters, he felt the guy was fascinating enough to write a whole movie for. He also says that the character of the Ice Cream man, in Ghost Dog, and that whole story line involving that character was based on those same encounters.

What's also hilarious is that Jarmusch is primarily responsible for Benigni's inability to grasp the English language. What Jarmusch has done in the several times he's worked with him is "teach" him incorrect meanings to certain words. Like if Benigni wanted to reference a cup he'd "teach" Benigni the slang word for cup and say it was the word "dog". Jarmusch would them make all the crew, fellow actors etc, refer to that same cup as the word "dog". Even years after making that movie he'll use the same slang he used during filming when referring to a certain object. To this day when you watch interviews with Benigni he'll make strange references, or use incorrect words because of what Jarmusch "taught" him.


Even if one doesn't know me, by now they can probably guess that this is going to be a positive review. I don't even have to watch the movie to say it's an amazing fucking film.

At least in my mind, the guy can do no wrong. If there's something I don't get about one of his movies, or don't like, it's probably because I'm too fucking stupid, or that I'm not SUPPOSED to understand.

In the movie Bill Murray plays Don Johnston, a ladies man who one day receives a mysterious letter informing him that he has a son, who might be looking for him. His friend Winston, a hilarious Jeffrey Wright, sparks his interest in embarking on a path down memory lane, re-connecting with past conquests to possibly find the author of the letter.

The buzz around the movie of course is for Bill Murray's performance, which is well deserved. It's subtle, sad, tragic, funny, touching and profound in a soulful way. It's similar to other characters he's played, but also remarkably unique. It's unfortunate that this performance comes on the heels of his academy award nominated performance in Lost in Translation, because it will draw inevitable comparisons.

The movie and his performance deserves to stand on it's own merit.

The movie is pitch perfect from beginning to end. It's a collaboration between two masters at the top of their game. Easily it's one of the best pictures of the year, if not the best. Although Murray is getting most of the acclaim, Jarmusch deserves equal share. I've heard the movie being referred to as his most commercial movie, and I would disagree. The movie has all of Jarmusch typical art house sensibilities, and European film influences. But the caliber of acting artists in the film is however different, to fit the tone of the film. I think the film would have suffered from a John Lurie, Roberto Benigni or Tom Waits visceral type of casting. To put that type of actor in this film would have been a jarring experience. He obviously needed actors who were adept at subtle, tight work.

There is not a wasted shot or wasted spoken word in the movie. Every frame and line of dialogue serves a profound purpose, and it's amazing to witness. Movies, especially American movies just aren't made like this.

The movie is also, on a different level, a Valentine to all women. Every encounter Don has with a female character is shot in a way that praises the virtues, and unique nature of the female species. The way Jarmusch films, and Murray encounters the female characters in the film are with a reverence, and almost awe of wonder. The way that a receptionist rubs her leg, or the way a flower girl ties a bow on a bouquet is witnessed with such affection, one would think that Don Johnston was in the midst of heavenly angels. Even in a scene of gratuitous nudity, the act is done with such a childlike innocence it becomes harmless and even charming. It's really touching and moving to see woman portrayed in this light especially nowadays when most female characters are so one dimensional.

I can't imagine liking a movie more this year. It's really a unique event that deserves all the acclaim it can get. I'm just worried that it will get lost in the flashier more so called dramatic works of awards season.

I don't want to spoil the ending, so if you haven't seen the movie stop reading now.

Like a lot of Jarmusch work, the movie doesn't have a conventional ending, and I can see some audiences getting frustrated with it. But the movie is obviously not about answers. It's about the nature of existence. Jarmusch obviously isn't about solving mysteries, he's about observing life, and it's quirky experiences. It's an amazing film once one puts that aside.

I just wish there were more movies like it.

1 comment:

Lons said...

Agreed. Easily among the year's best. And, of course, doomed to be overlooked come award season.