I'm not dead. Am I?
Publisher: Director's Suite, brought to you by Madman Entertainment
Fri, 19 August 2005
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Every so I receive a product for review that causes me to smile like an idiot and say, "my life is awesome!" One of those times occurred just the other day, when the DVD of Jim Jarmusch's Deadman arrived. The film has long been a favourite of mine and this 10th Anniversary edition disc (courtesy of Madman's excellent Director's Suite series label) has ensured that it will forever remain that way.
Jarmusch both wrote and directed the movie. I'm going to, once again, resort to my lazy act of taking the plot synopsis straight from the back of the DVD case (hey, some bastard probably gets paid to write these things, so we might as well make the most of 'em):
"Dead Man is the story of a young man's journey, both physically and spiritually, into very unfamiliar terrain. William Blake travels to the extreme western frontiers of America sometime in the 2nd half of the 19th century. Lost and badly wounded, he encounters a very odd, outcast Native American, named "Nobody," who believes Blake is actually the dead English poet of the same name. The story, with Nobody's help, leads William Blake through situations that are in turn comical and violent. Contrary to his nature, circumstances transform Blake into a hunted outlaw, a killer, and a man whose physical existence is slowly slipping away. Thrown into a world that is cruel and chaotic, his eyes are opened to the fragility that defines the realm of the living. It is as though he passes through the surface of a mirror, and emerges into a previously-unknown world that exists on the other side."
William Blake is played by the preposterously handsome Johnny Depp. It was his performance here that really turned me into a lifelong fan of his work. Depp has a reputation for choosing some great and interesting roles and William Blake would have to be one of the very best examples of that.
|The view from here is not too shabby. |
The viewer takes the journey with Blake, whose destiny leads him to evolve from a meek and unassuming little man, into an almost mythical character. Johnny helps make that journey a convincing one. If you look closely at how different his character is towards the end of the movie, compared to the beginning, I'm sure you'll agree the transformation is a remarkable one.
Depp's performance is not the only memorable one in Dead Man. Gary Farmer is superb and thoroughly endearing with his portrayal of "Nobody". In fact, the acting in the film is outstanding across the board and the casting choices are truly excellent. Crispin Glover, Jonh Hurt and Robert Mitchum are just a few of the names that spring to mind. I have also always loved Iggy Pop's hilariously bizarre cameo appearance as Salvatore "Sally" Jenko. .
Jarmush's brilliantly written story has elements of the archetypical 'hero's journey' combined with the style of a twisted fairy tale (the likes of which the Grimm brothers might have produced, had they indulged heavily in various mind altering substances). Of course, due mainly to the setting, Dead Man is essentially a western movie, but I think it can appeal to people who (unlike myself) don't usually care for that genre.
There's plenty here to sink your teeth into and interpret in different ways, so it rewards repeat viewing. But if you just want to have fun with it and not think so much, you can watch it on that level too. It can be funny, touching, dramatic, introspective; I guess you could say that it has a little bit of everything and which parts stand out most really depends on what kind of mood you are in at the time.
The dialogue is, just like the story, superbly written. It is darkly humorous and there's a poetic rhythm to much of it (and I don't just mean the lines that are direct quotes from William Blake poems). Some of the words that come out of these eccentric character's mouths are eminently quotable as well, for those who enjoy that sort of thing.
Dead Man is beautifully filmed in black and white. Some of the movie's shots are so nicely done that I wouldn't mind getting them framed, to hang on my wall. The DVD's 16:9 aspect ratio offers a pristine transfer that gives the visuals the respect they deserve.
The sound quality of the DVD is top notch too, which pleases me greatly as Neil Young's score is yet another area in which Dead Man excels.
There's little in the way of bonus features, but the included deleted scenes, theatrical trailer and music video of Neil Young's "Dead Man Theme" are better than nothing at all. That's really the only weak point of this release, but when the movie itself is so good, it doesn't really bother me.
Dead Man won't work for everyone, purely because it is not a mainstream style of picture. It is also fair to say that the movie can be an acquired taste. I'd suggest, to those who have not seen it already, you should watch it right through at least twice before judging it. If you still don't like it after that, you probably never will. But if you do get into it on that second look, you'll most likely grow to love it by the third time!
|The eagle never lost so much time as when he submitted to learn from the crow. |
For the people who are won over by it, Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man is one you will enjoy watching many times over and find new ways to appreciate with each viewing. I find it hard to believe that Dead Man has been around for 10 years now, where has the time gone? The movie is just as fresh today as it ever was though, it certainly has a timeless quality to it. In my mind, rental isn't good enough for this movie, this is one that deserves to be owned.
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Dead Man rocks! I will probably end up wearing this DVD out from viewing it so many times.