Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Johnny Depp Is A Dead Man

Living is optional, but traveling is not. Johnny Depp takes the journey we all must in the obscure film Dead Man. With riveting black and white photography and searing Neil Young guitar, the Deppster follows a shamanistic guide across the Wild West frontier of the world to a Northwest Indigenous village, from whence he embarks on his final canoe voyage into the setting sun.

Director Jim Jarmusch wrote this compelling script. Accountant William Blake (Johnny Depp), whose parents have died and whose fianceƩ has abandoned him, accepts work in the town of Machine at the end of civilization. He arrives to discover the job has been taken from him as well. After killing a man and getting seriously wounded, he falls in with a quirky Native (Gary Farmer), who calls himself "Nobody." Their pilgrimage is a parable of human destiny.

If you'd enjoy a rugged-but-sensitive meditation on the travel that ends all travels, don't miss this movie. If you cherish the dream-like profundity of deep woods or the tribal spirituality of totem pole carvings, you won't be disappointed. Even if the only dreamy icon you wish to revere is Johnny himself, this is a cinematic sacrament worth partaking. Not the feel-good hit of the summer but a good feel-moody art flick for the dog days.

Hordes of bad Westerns have associated the genre with corniness, simplicity, and racism. Yet, this film takes "a stab" at what the art form really is: a moral fable with the wild world as battlefield between weary, wounded people hanging onto personal integrity under extreme duress and corrupted, predatory people readily sacrificing innocence plus nearby innocents for personal gain.

The arguement that real-world heroes and villians aren't so well defined is quite valid but in no way reduces the genuine need for stories that draw a line in the sand between what we must not become and what we should be "shooting for." This world offers neither a black-and-white color palette nor a black-and-white moral palette, but few of us want to see a movie or live in a reality where everything is gray. If teenagers can believe in unicorns, let adults believe in white horses and even aspire to ride them.


  1. Is this a new film or an old one? It looks old because it's in black and white.

    Speaking of westerns, I can't wait to see Cowboys and Aliens with Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford!

    I liked your review of True Grit as well.

  2. The film is from 1995, but like me, it's newish and still very potent.

    Cowboys and Aliens does look cool, but Cowboys were originally juxtaposed with Indians because the indigenous seemed quite alien with their different conduct codes. So, once we get chummy with our space neighbors, Craig and Ford will owe the aliens a big apology for their participation in this outrage.

    Speaking of insensitivity, Olivia Wilde (the icy lesbian from Doctor House) looks like she's warmed up considerably in the Cowboys and Aliens trailer. Give us guys another chance, Olivia, I swear we can change!

  3. Gladys Serra AlavezOctober 4, 2011 at 9:36 PM

    Turn ons smile, look and stature. Turn offs glasses, tie, ears and hair

  4. I don't like her hair long and glasses