Monday, May 08, 2006

Broken Flowers

Jim Jarmusch's latest film is the story of a man who sets out to find the son he didn't know he had and ends up getting answers to some questions he never dreamed of asking. Don Johnston (Bill Murray) is an emotionally blank middle-aged Don Juan who has never married and lives a quiet, comfortable life thanks to shrewd investments in computers (though he doesn't use one himself). After being given his walking papers by his latest girlfriend, Sherry (Julie Delpy), Don receives an anonymous letter informing him he fathered a son 19 years ago, and that the boy wants to find his dad. Not sure what to do, Don shows the note to Winston (Jeffrey Wright), a neighbor who fancies himself an amateur detective. With Winston's help, Don narrows the list of possible mothers down to four women, and with a mixture of reluctance and resigned determination he sets out to find them. Armed with a CD of traveling music from Winston, Don pays unannounced visits to Laura (Sharon Stone), an oversexed widow with a libidinous teenage daughter (Alexis Dziena); Dora (Frances Conroy), a stuffy real estate agent; Penny (Tilda Swinton), an aging biker with no happy memories of Don; Carmen (Jessica Lange), a self-styled analyst for pets whose outward eccentricity disguises a firm inner stability; and finally the gravesite of Michelle, a woman with whom it appears Don had a serious connection.

In one of the most poignant dramatic comedies I've seen in ages, Murray and Jarmusch team up to produce a memorable portrait of searching humanity, and spontaneous determination, all framed with extreme sensitivity and unparalleled humor. Murray is outstanding: his every expression is copiously descriptive of an interior monologue that we the audience are allowed to hear through the silence. The cinematography is brilliant, vivid, gritty and realistic (as one would expect with Jarmusch), but so much more colorful than the classics we've been reviewing here. The soundtrack is great (and is also available in the library system), and lends another glowing layer of character and meaning to the proceedings. I also recommend checking out the bonus features on the DVD: one includes a reel of footage from the clapboard takes for each scene from beginning to end, edited take by take, including a few gags. It's quite possibly the most interesting look at how a film is made that I have ever seen - and it's only 8 minutes.

4 out of 5 stars


At 5:01 PM, Blogger Jeannette said...

I enjoyed "Broken Flowers," although with the subdued character played by Bill Murray, I couldn't understand what all those women saw in him, until near the end of the film when he finally seemed to feel compelled to interact with another character. Throughout the rest film, he appeared to be indifferent and waiting for others to lead the conversation. The only other exception I can think of was when he was talking with Winston's daughter.

I am always impressed with Jeffrey Wright, who played Winston. As usual, he did a fine job, but to get a better idea of his range, you have to see "Angels in America," the cable miniseries about AIDS and "Basquiat."

I think I need to revisit Jim Jarmusch's other films that I wrote off earlier as too slow. Maybe I have more patience for cinema than I did when I was younger...


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