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A collection of five stories involving cab drivers in five different cities. Los Angeles - A talent agent for the movies discovers her cab driver would be perfect to cast, but the cabbie is reluctant to give up her solid cab driver's career. New York - An immigrant cab driver is continually lost in a city and culture he doesn't understand. Paris - A blind girl takes a ride with a cab driver from the Ivory Coast and they talk about life and blindness. Rome - A gregarious cabbie picks up an ailing man and virtually talks him to death. Helsinki - an industrial worker gets laid off and he and his compatriots discuss the bleakness and unfairness of love and life and death. Written by
Ed Sutton <email@example.com>
In terms of perspective on life, these comic-philosophic taxi rides may be the most uplifting scenes in Jarmusch's oeuvre. The first of five segments (in L.A.) deals with Winona Ryder (in a broad, self-conscious performance) as a cab driver who picks up Gena Rowlands, who wants to put her in a movie. Rowlands is subtle and complex: she's a rich bitch with a soft side, but we don't know if she's the former because she's a player or if she's the latter because she wants to use Ryder. What Jarmusch is going for is to contrast the social classes -- he has an obvious, unfunny line where Ryder's character says she's never been to the executive terminal at the airport before -- but what's really interesting is seeing, since Jarmusch is usually a male-oriented director, how he handles women (one a tomboy, one in a position of power).
It's obvious that the little idea of a movie about four taxi cab drivers is just a thin story that gives Jarmusch an excuse to work with certain actors, like Rowlands, whose late, great husband he adores. He goes for cultural miscommunication in the New York story (which is the film's most tender and brotherly), the warring cultures within a city, where a black man (Giancarlo Esposito) who can't land a cab fights with his Puerto Rican girlfriend while being badly driven around by former circus clown (Armin Mueller-Stahl, in a goofy, charming performance). Jarmusch makes brilliant statements on race and color in the Paris segment, with a sassy blind woman who's aware of what her driver is thinking of her -- and who turns our expectations on their head twice, without coming back to where we started. Benigni, who doesn't play the clown, is nevertheless the funniest in the Rome ride: he talks aloud to himself and outdoes and predates "American Pie" by almost a decade. The final, Helsinki section is the most powerful. When the cabbie tries to one-up the sob story by one of his three passengers, the conclusion seems to be that he wins; the two conscious passengers seem to think their unconscious friend's troubles are insignificant, as if they can't both be sad. 7/10
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