Dead Man (1995)

August 19, 2008 § Leave a comment

Dead Man is a wandering but fascinating artistic Western from director Jim Jarmusch (and, if you like one Jim Jarmusch film you’ll probably like them all). It’s a film with both amusing and horrific moments, built with a series of small, often nearly perfect scenes the way a poem is one careful line after another. It only suffers from a limited, repetitive score that begins to feel like the same guy hammering away on a guitar because, well, that’s exactly what it is. It was a bold move to score it this way, but the film deserves better than a self-conscious and distracting score.

There’s also a scene where one of the villains literally steps on and crushes a human head in a long, slow shot. Jarmusch has an admirable reputation for showing the moments between events and the images other directors might skip or cut away from, but this is simply a bit much in a film that’s already relentlessly grim. Setting the film in a period where life was cheaper and more of an ongoing struggle allows him to suggest certain thematic ideas: that we’re all doomed, it only remains to choose where you want to concentrate your desperate efforts before you’re gone. Despite a moment or two that might make you wince uncomfortably, Dead Man is a strong and memorable film, and well worth watching.

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