Comments on watching and making films.

Monday, October 6, 2008

DVD - Night On Earth

One of a few Jim Jarmusch films that have been difficult to get ahold of the last decade or so, Night On Earth is a grouping of stories that take place in different cities, but all in taxi cabs. Some are hilarious, some are more serious and genuine, but all of them deal (surprisingly well) with the human condition. I say surprisingly well because I found it kind of hard to believe that such a great job could be done with character development and plot development while stuck inside a taxi cab for two hours. Granted, its not the same taxi, but, still...

The film follows five different stories in five different cities. There's a casting agent who meets a spunky, hard as nails young woman driving a cab in Los Angeles, a guy in New York City, trying to get from Manhattan to the Bronx with a cab driver who doesn't know how to drive a car, a blind woman who questions her drivers ability to truly appreciate life in Paris, a priest who catches a ride with a very strange, self obsessed Italian cabbie (with deadly results) in Rome, and a couple of drunks who catch a ride home with a driver who knows more about love and loss than any of them, in Helsinki.

My biggest concern going into this film was - Will it be interesting for two hours? I saw Coffee and Cigarettes a few years back, in the theater, and, while segments of it were interesting, as a whole, I just felt like it didn't always work for me. Now, that being said, Night On Earth was written, specifically, as a feature (that info comes from Jarmusch himself on the DVD Q&A), whereas Coffee and Cigarettes was a series of short films shot over twenty years or so, with no intent to ever be packaged together. Night On Earth, though, really kept my attention and interest throughout the whole film. I never felt like the "five stories/different cities/all in taxi cabs" thing was a stunt. It never felt trite or stupid. Every story had interesting, well thought out characters, and, to me, Night On Earth shows Jarmusch as an incredibly mature and talented writer.

Also, Jarmusch and I are both Cassavetes fans, so, I'm sure he got a kick out of working with her, but I got a huge kick out of seeing Gena Rowlands on the screen. I think she's an incredible actress, and, Jarmusch states in the Q&A that this was the first film Rowlands did after John passed away in 1989. She's really at the top of her game in it too. Roberto Benigni's Italian cabbie is hilarious as well. His delivery is flawless, and you believe even the stupidest things with his character (like the fact that he forgot he had his sunglasses on, even while driving at night).  Night On Earth is a great piece of 90's Independent cinema, and I'm really glad the Criterion Collection decided to put it out there for everyone to see.

No comments: