Friday, October 07, 2005

Broken Flowers

Is there such an animal as a post-Dead Man Jarmusch? More and more I'm thinking no, it's all Jarmusch beginning to end. His latest offering, Broken Flowers, has a kind of a broken record quality which will be familiar to Jarmusch fans. It revisits themes explored in Jarmusch's early films, and it reiterates a narrative idea that will instantly recall Stranger than Paradise, but not until it actually occurs, at which point the peculiarities of Jarmucshian realism on display in the film will acquire a deep significance. It's a real ah hah moment, or was for me.

To summarize the plot, the film is about a guy named Don Johnston with a T who gets thrown for a loop in the form of a letter from a former lover--but which former lover?--informing him that he is a father to a grown son who has just set out on a journey to find him. So it's a Don Juan tale with a twist. Bill Murray gives a very good performance, as every reviewer and his dog has averred.

I'm pretty sure the character of Winston, played by the criminally underappreciated actor Jeffrey Wright, was concocted for the purpose of introducing the music of Mulatu Astatqe. Good call.

So why not say that Dead Man was a departure and Broken Flowers marks a return? Well, for one thing there's the intervening Coffee and Cigarettes, which is light, farcical, minimalist, bouyant at times, electric, Jarmuschian to the core, and yet, like Dead Man, probes a darker side of the existential predicament.

And then there's Ghost Dog, a great film in its own right. It doesn't belong in the shadow of Dead Man any more than it belongs in the shadow of Mystery Train--except, except of course that there is a chronological sequence, and I'd say an evident process of maturation. But to pick any one point in the process as marking a stage seems pretty arbitrary. Every film is a departure. Every film is a return.

posted by Fido the Yak at 1:01 PM.


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