Trompé Setsuled (setsuled) wrote,
Trompé Setsuled

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Knowing Poetry

At cryptess's recommendation, I last night watched Jim Jarmusch's 1995 film Dead Man, a beautifully shot film I quite enjoyed. It's the most plot driven Jarmusch film I've seen, taking a more or less standard hunted man Western plot and fleshing it out with Jarmusch's typical, series of vignette style studies of characters playing off each other. The result is a Western world seen through an unusual prism of credible human social examination.

It was helped to this end by a fantastic cast, including Robert Mitchum actually well used, though briefly, in his final role. It seems age hadn't blunted Mitchum's ability to perform, and as an angry, paranoid company head he seems to almost effortlessly create a character. Some of the other characters, by contrast, I think might actually have been better cast with unknowns, particularly Iggy Pop and Gabriel Byrne, whose appearances don't really last long enough for us to get past the "Hey, look who it is," moment to see the character.

Johnny Depp worked perfectly fine as the lead,though, transitioning credibly from a naive fish out of water to a shell shocked lost soul. Gary Farmer as a Native American called Nobody at first annoyed me with his catch phrase of, "Stupid fucking white man," which seemed to mark him as the kind of obnoxious Native American anti-stereotype seen in a lot of post-1970 Westerns, most annoyingly in Clint Eastwood's The Outlaw Josey Wales. Anyone suspicious about my perspective on this, ask yourself how it would have come across if any non-Native American had, upon meeting Depp's character after he'd been almost fatally shot, said he was "fucking stupid." The humour depends entirely on a preconceived submissiveness and perhaps mystification on the part of the Native American, and a surprise at finding a Native American comfortable busting a white guy's balls.

But fortunately, the movie moved away from the It's Just So Funny He's Not a Moron! thing and not only gave Nobody an interesting back story, but used him to supply the movie's curious relationship with William Blake, which is also the name of Depp's character. Nobody takes this name to craft an interesting, supernatural story around Depp. I thought at first the name "Nobody" could be a reference to The Odyssey, but now I think perhaps it's meant to imply that Gary Farmer's character is a personification of aspects of Depp's story.

Jarmusch's style seems to resist momentum, which is oddly suitable for a Western, allowing us to dwell in locations and moments in a world where travel and communication took much longer than they do to-day. The film's Wikipedia entry identifies it as a Revisionist Western. I'm not quite sure I buy into the concept of the Revisionist Western--I don't really see how films like Fort Apache and Stagecoach are really argued against by films considered Revisionist. They seem to me simply to be different stories told in the same environment, but some of the films listed in the Wikipedia entry for Revisionist Western actually are films I thought of while watching Dead Man, particularly Ride the High Country and The Naked Spur.

Twitter Sonnet #169

Three billion moustaches scar the army.
Spinning airplanes eject extra pilots.
Every twentieth ship captain's barmy.
Nuns turn into white shadows with habits.
Late laundry spins a dry denture blowjob.
A murder of springs step down cardboard stairs.
Illusory rum cake can't please a mob.
Across Bering Strait for Palin came bears.
The sun stops to watch a Norse bell pepper.
Phoney oil burns a lie's reflection.
Lost Club Queen drops an upside down sceptre.
Though the Heart's way is the rigged election.
Blurry flat light spikes off a grey ocean.
Frost infects the veins of a vacation.
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