Broken Flowers

Jim Jarmusch is a maestro of the minutiae of everyday humdrum existence. He has a string of movies that deal with human interaction and the general futility (or, more importantly, absurdity) of life in beautifully poetic fashion. And, always very very funny. Even his ‘action’ movie Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samuraii moves along at a snail’s real-time (and is worth seeing purely for the relationship between the title character and a french ice cream salesman with whom he plays chess). His most recently distributed film Coffee & Cigarettes took this to extremes by being a collection of shorts featuring a myriad disparate characters sharing the titular comestibles.

Prompted by an anonymous letter informing him that he has an unknown of 20 year old son, aging ladies man Don Johnstone (geddit, a Don Juan? Boy do they hammer on that one, but not pointlessly) sets out on a journey to visit the women in his life from about the right time. He is greeted with various degrees of welcome and antipathy.

Supposedly this film is also notable as being a further exemplar of Bill Murray‘s march towards indie movie god. Or, rehabilitation as a decent/bankable actor if you’d rather. I haven’t seen one of the other films that supposedly herald this (The Life Aquatic), and the other – Lost In Translation – I found over-rated, nothing new and actually pretty damned dodgy all round. But, then, no matter at which stage in his career (SNL, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, now) he’s really only “done a Bill Murray”. Thankfully, this is a good thing. And, current Murray is exactly the hang-dog face that is required (however improbably, surely he was the least likely romantic lead ever)for the aging lothario role. Jarmusch obviously thinks so too. Giving as much time to just pointing the camera at his jowls as he can get away with. (TBH, he does stretch it a little in the champagne scene.) But, then he was never one for the quick cut when you could show some folk sitting in silence instead. If my memory serves he has some justification for this about life not cutting or whatever.

Spoiler or not, I’m going to tell that we never get a straight resolution to Don’s quest. In fact by the end of the film there are more unanswered questions than the basic premise gives us. Where this film succeeds is in it’s examination of the passage of time and th people that come in and out of our lives. Some of the most touching (and near pathetic) moments take place round the dinner table and look at how we interact and deal with other people. All in this is a contemplative little piece and very moving. Also, very very funny.

Wish someone’d give him a manic role, again, though…

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Written by Tony Kiernan

06 November 2005 at 9:29 pm

Posted in Film

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